By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
This is a monumental week for many.
Saturday will culminate the end of “formal” education to nearly 600 students who will don their caps and gowns and walk the aisle to receive their high school diploma.
To the graduates, parents, grandparents, and teachers, it is a job well done. Now these students will go out into the world and, hopefully, achieve their dreams and make a difference, for not only themselves, but for future generations. We hope you maximize each and every opportunity available to pursue your dreams while keeping your feet and your mind on level ground.
Friday, of course, marks the end of the school year for the rest of students in the county, bringing to fruition another year of learning and personal growth. It is a time when you can celebrate and relax, plan for summer activities, and prepare for the next phase of your lives. Plan carefully, choose wisely, and live accordingly.
Thursday, of course, is mammoth in my own life as I tackle the latter part of my 50s with birthday number 56. In a previous column I ranted about how the beauty products I’ve used over the years have failed to make me “drop dead” gorgeous. My daughter responded, saying I should be thankful for the opportunity to have wrinkles and lines — which rang some truth. While I am indeed thankful for the many opportunities I’ve had in my 55 years, I still harbor a bit of vanity when I see the lines and wrinkles that dominate my face. But I’ll willingly sacrifice the ‘drop dead’ and the gorgeous for the chance to be around many more years.
Those years, I hope, are filled with the joy of watching my grandchildren grow up, seeing their high school and college graduations as I remember walking down the aisle to receive my high school and college diplomas. I want to be around to be escorted down the aisle at their weddings, be present at the hospital when and if they have children. I want to see my children and step-children become grandparents themselves, so I can remind them they are spoiling their grandchildren rotten, just as I’ve heard so many times from them!
My life — like everyone else’s — has had moments, hours and weeks of distress and disappointment, misery and miracles, happiness and grief. I watched some dreams die while I struggled with reality, I have been places I never thought I’d ever see and have so many more to dream about in the coming years. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a variety of people from all corners of the earth, from different backgrounds, and many of whom have become friends with whom I share cherished memories. I have been fortunate to have maintained contact with at least one person from various aspects of my life.
When my mother died, my three of my best friends from high school, church, and college stood beside me, reminiscing about the times we shared and the impact my mother made on them. There are few things in life more precious than knowing, more than 20 years after your lives have moved in different directions, that love and caring between friends remains intact.
The series of scrapbook memories that define one’s life is just a small section of the experiences that have contributed to the overall development of the person. While many portions of my life have sections that I would never put on display, it is the numerous lessons learned, goals achieved, and mitigating factors that produce the end result of maturity and appreciation — and, hopefully, erase any bad aura and replace it with admiration and respect for the person who evolved. I am a Phoenix — who rose from the ashes of past mistakes and experiences to make new ones that leave positive and lasting memories on those nearest and dearest to my heart.
Perhaps we are all a phoenix, waiting for that opportunity to soar above the daily issues and tackle the unknown with courage and confidence.
I wish that for the 2013 graduates as well as upcoming students. It is up to you to take the reigns of your lives and go in the direction that will bring you happiness and peace. The future is heavily influenced by the past and the present, but the negatives can be overcome and the positives accentuated for your own personal success. In a world of instant gratification, bear in mind that lives can be destroyed or forever changed in the blink of an eye. Live life to the fullest by always respecting others and by using your heart and mind to make the decisions most beneficial.
The world will not fall at your feet and seldom will it even bend. It is your task to chip away slowly at the mountain of rock before you until you find the passageway to your destination. The path you choose may lead you to the thorns or the thrones, and very few who find the thorns get out without some scratches and scars.
Walk carefully along your journey of life and cherish the memories that have shaped your progress. These are the times we carry with us and these are the memories that we will leave behind.
Good luck, graduates, on your journey. I wish you a safe and happy one.