To the point week of 6-3-10

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SUNDAY IS GRADUATION DAY here in Switzerland County. It’s a day each year when young men and young women turn their tassels and turn their lives to a new direction. Many will go on to another level of education; others will enter the military; some will go to work.

And they will forever be linked as the Switzerland County High School Class of 2010.

For the members of this year’s senior class – as with all graduating classes – the time is filled with joy over being finished with high school; but also sadness in the knowledge that they are leaving friends and mentors behind.

This week will be filled with thoughts of the end of how things are.

But there’s a reason they call it “commencement”.

Class of 2010 – you are about to commence.

You are about to commence on the beginning of your life. For you, it’s a new and wonderful life, filled with expectation and dreams and goals. No one shares the same goals, so while some of you are making plans to head off to a college or university in the fall; others are making plans to enter the military or the field of work.

No matter what plans are, at this moment for each and every senior they are personal and they are paramount.

To the members of the class: there are many things that you have been taught by your parents, as well as your teachers, but if there is one thing that I would like to pass on to each of you just days before you graduate, it is the notion that – as secure as you are in your future plans – always leave yourself room to adjust and change course if needed.

As a senior in high school, I looked forward to heading to college in the fall of 1979 and beginning the study of law. I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer, that was - until I attended my first law class.

For me, the law wasn’t where I was supposed to be, so I changed course.

My college roommate my senior year is still one of my closest friends. Having to take a class in a science field, he and I as sophomores surveyed the selections and decided that geology seemed like a good place to be, because chemistry and physics were definitely out and we’d already taken biology.

So we sat in Dr. Totten’s geology class for 13 weeks and did what we were supposed to and finished our science requirement.

For me, it was the conclusion of another class; but for Tom, it was like someone turned on a lightbulb – he loved geology.

So he changed course.

He completed his bachelor’s degree with a major in geology, then headed to Murray State University to complete his master’s.

He now works for the Department of Defense at the Pentagon, studying maps and aerial photographs in order to locate possible water reserves around the world.

All because he changed his course.

Seniors, if you ask many of the adults that you know what they planned on doing as opposed to what they are doing now, I would wager that most of them didn’t start down the path that they eventually followed.

Look, everyone wants to make money, and lots of it; but all of the money in the world doesn’t fix having to report to a job each and everyday that you hate. At 18, you’ve got nearly 50 years to work until you retire and begin drawing Social Security (if it’s still around), so whatever you do, you had better like doing it.

It’s a long life.

Also, as you change your course, don’t get bogged down in “success” and “failure” thoughts. Just because you decide that what you’re training to do isn’t what you want to do, you’re not a failure. In fact, I think you’re pretty smart and mature.

An old adage says that a fool is someone who does the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome each time. If you suddenly find yourself in a job that you don’t like, then take a step back, analyze what it is that you want out of life, then look at options for getting where you want to be.

In other words: plot your course before you start walking down it.

Finally, I want to leave you with another old adage that I remember members of my family saying when I was a youngster:

“Learn all you can, because what you know, no one can ever take away from you.”

Someday someone may come and take your car or your home or your other possessions, but what’s found in your mind, no one will ever be able to take away.

And that goes for each of you, no matter what your next step is.

If you’re going into the military, then be prepared to volunteer for additional training when it’s offered. If you’re at work, be aware of conferences and seminars and training that will help you do your job better and make you a better employee for the company you work for – and a more desirable candidate for future employers down the road.

Never stop learning, because technology and innovation never stops.

When I first came to the Vevay Newspapers in 1984, we were typesetting on one huge computer and printing out our stories on ticker-tape and then feeding those tapes into other computers which spit out our stories. Then we would wax the back of the paper, cut each story out with scissors, and then place it on a large page of paper.

There were rooms filled with people typesetting stories in Madison; and a group of employees who did the “paste up” of the pages and the design of advertising.

All of those people now reside in the single computer that I am typing this column on.

Photographs are digital; overall design is digital; pages are sent to press via computer rather than me driving to our press facility every Wednesday.

Our website carries important news to readers all over the world.

In less than 30 years, everything has changed, and although I’m still on the same course, the nature of the path has changed.

So what does all of this mean?

Find a path, but don’t be afraid to take a new one if it’s where your heart is.

Follow your dreams, not your wallet.

Never stop learning.

And have a blast, because it’s a great big world out there, and you’re all now a part of it.

Congratulations.