Their eyes are bright, joyous, excited, buoyant. Their voices titter with nervous excitement, not wholly sure of exactly what’s going to happen next. They are emerging from the cocoon of school and now are high school graduates. They are leaving, as one student observed, the place where they grew up.

“We opened wounds, watched them bleed and watched them heal,” another student leader reflected.

All across America, it’s the season of milestones. These bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young adults reek of potential as they prepare for what’s next. Many will head to college. Some will begin work. Most will do both. Regardless, it’s going to be something new, refreshing, grueling. 

As they gathered for graduations under the proud eyes of misty parents, it was remarkable to see, at least for a moment, how days and days of high school angst, jealousies and tempestuous drama temporarily evaporated. At one graduation — and it’s likely true across the country — they massed as a team, a group reflective of a generation eager to take on the next challenge, any challenge.

“It only gets better from here,” one graduation speaker observed with a blend of anxiety and determination.  

Advice and reminders flowed from graduates as if the ceremony were a locker-room pep talk:

  • Keep going, regardless of what life throws at you.  
  • You’re ready — just do it.
  • Take risks.
  • Persevere.
  • Make your future happen — anything is possible.

There’s an innocence to these thoughts that inspires. But they smother the mutterings of grumps, curmudgeons and cynics who think the latest generation isn’t worth much. And while it’s true life will throw curveballs at these fresh graduates that may sour them some, the bubble they’re in for the moment is electric with potential. 

Witnessing what’s happening to these new graduates makes one feel good about what’s going on across America in spite of the political and social negativity, the residual impact of the pandemic, the challenges of surviving and climate change.

What’s amazing — and is particularly evident at graduation time — is that these new graduates bristle with energy and zeal. Yes, they’re young, but they seem oddly ready to take on the world and what it throws at them — despite any failures of the current generation of leaders.  

So as we toast the Class of 2022, let’s offer some reminders that may take the edge off of the years ahead: 

Think. Don’t be rushed into doing something you don’t want to do. If you are unsure, think about what the right thing to do is. In your heart of hearts, you will know the right direction.

Have fun. You’re only here once. Make the most of it. Enjoy each day.

Finish the job. If you start something, see it through. Do it correctly.

Try new things. Explore our world. Taste different foods. Smell lavender fields in France. Make art. Live beyond South Carolina — and then come back and make it better.

Question. Don’t accept everything at face value. Question authority — and question those questioning authority.

Listen. Make a habit of slowing down and listening to what other people are saying. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn — and grow — just by listening.

Use common sense. Too many people seem oblivious about too many things. Whenever you encounter a decision point, examine it practically and use common sense to figure out the best choice.

Laugh. Don’t take things too seriously. Today’s drama will be forgotten by next year. Enjoy life. Laugh at it and yourself. A good sense of humor will take you a long way.

Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to:

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.