Some curated wisdom, two decades later

By Richard Zowie —

For one of my assignments two weekends ago, I took pictures of the Harper High School graduation.

As a journalist, I’ve photographed several graduations. Many of the pictures are similar: the graduates enter as “Pomp and Circumstance” plays, the valedictorian speaks, students receive diplomas, they toss their mortarboards into the air. Graduates then hug each other and their families.

Some students cry as they close one chapter of their lives and enter a new one. Sometimes it means saying goodbye to friends they’ve known since kindergarten and wondering how long it’ll be before they see them again.

I graduated from A.C. Jones High School in Beeville in 1991. We were all eager to graduate — not just to receive our diplomas, but because we wore black graduation gowns (despite our orange and white school colors) in the Bee County Coliseum, which then had no air conditioning.

Many “91ers” and I had grand plans to leave Beeville and go onto proverbial “bigger and better things.” Sometimes life works out that way, and sometimes life decides to give us a big, unpleasant reality check. One classmate moved to the Miami area, only to return when he realized how expensive it was.

Graduation was 23 years ago. Believe me, there are many things that 41-year-old Richard would love to tell 18-year-old Richard.

Among them:

• Listen closely to your parents regarding their wisdom on life. As you get older, you’ll be very surprised how right they’ll turn out to be. You’ll especially learn this as you lose your childhood innocence and realize life is far more complicated than you’d imagined.

• Don’t be in any hurry to settle down and get married. Your early 20s should be about learning how to be an adult and getting the education or training you need to get a well-paying job. Date if you must, but try save the serious relationships for later.

• When deciding on a college major or vocational training, try to balance out what you are interested in doing with what will pay the bills.

• Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s all a part of learning how to be an adult.

• Learn how to manage money. Doing so now will save you many headaches down the road, such as credit card debt and overdrawn bank accounts.

• Find yourself as a person and then stick to that. At the same time, learn to be flexible over the minor issues of life and don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t lose yourself in any relationship.

• Take a genuine interest in people. This can help you function easier around others. One soon-to-be-former brother-in-law is a truck driver built like a bear. He drinks, cusses and often has an R-rated sense of humor. Yet, despite our differences we get along very well due to our mutual respect for each other. I think of him more as a brother.

• If you join the military, consider making a career out of it. The end result will be a nice pension and a lot of pride.

• Life boils down to two things: the choices you make and the company you keep.

And now, I’m left to wonder what 50-year-old Richard would say to me today…

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