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The age old question, you ‘have to’ or you ‘get to’?

Jun 07, 2013


Mt. Pleasant News

They’re all graduated and starting on their next chapter in life.

Graduation snuck up on me this year. That’s what happens when you don’t have a child or someone you know graduating. Occasionally, I will include a tidbit or two of advice in this forum prior to area graduations.

This year, I missed the opportunity. As I write this (on Wednesday, May 29), I remember that today is the anniversary of my high school graduation. That was decades ago (I am not saying how many decades, but suffice to say, it was not in the 21st Century).

Next year could be different. The caboose (final one of four children) picks up her diploma in 2014. Over the years, I have wondered what thoughts will be going through my mind when I watch her walk across the stage in a gymnasium 300 miles from here. No doubt it will be bittersweet. I am sure next year, like the past three, will bring as much sadness as joy. Due to circumstances, I have missed her high school years and next year will watch her senior year from afar. For a parent, that it was one of the most difficult pills to swallow.

That, however, is not the intended message of this week’s column. Rather, it is a message to the Class of 2013. WACO social studies instructor Renea Reichenbach is bailing me out. Her message to WACO’s seniors on May 19 was one of the best I’ve heard in recent years. It was a home run, so to speak, and she was kind enough to send it to me so I could share it with you. Following is her message (with the “shout outs” to the individual seniors omitted).

Good afternoon graduates, colleagues, families and guests of this WACO Class of 2013. It was an honor to be asked by this class to speak today; they are giving me the opportunity to share what I know with them (knowing that it won’t even be on a test!). So, class of 2013, listen up, because you asked for this.

I have three pieces of advice for you today. The first one is the most important. Adopt a “get-to” attitude in life. Replace the “have-to” dread with the “get-to” outlook. I decided I didn’t “have” to write a speech for today. I get to. You don’t have to further your education. You get to. Only 7 percent of the world has a college education. Most of this class is going on to college, and many take it for granted, some even dread the work ahead. Don’t. Most of the world’s population hasn’t had and will never get the opportunity you have right now.

Replace the “have to” with the “get to.” You don’t have to spend time with your family. You get to. People who love you and have supported you are in this crowd today excited for what’s ahead of you. Once you’ve left the nest, call home, stop by and take time to connect. Facebook status updates should not be the primary way they keep up with what’s going on in your lives.

Replace the “have to” with the “get to.” You don’t have to go to work. You get to. I love what I do for a living, but will let you in on a little secret. Some days the job leaves me absolutely exhausted and feeling like I have little left to give. It’s a rare day that I finish in eight hours the work that needs to be done. The same can’t be said of your other teachers. I hope that you’re each able to find fulfilling jobs, but also want you to know that if you’re only doing the work “required” of you, you’re not ever going to get ahead. And you shouldn’t. Almost half of the world lives on less than $2 a day. Most of you drop more than that on a trip to the concession stand. I’ve heard some of you complaining about the work you’ve been doing in the last couple months. Yes, you’ve been busy. Guess what? It was a foreshadowing of what’s to come and you’re lucky to be able to do it. You made it though the challenges of high school, and can use those lessons to make it through what’s to come. Go above and beyond in all you’re asked to do, and be grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Replace the “have to” with the “get to.” You don’t have to give to charities or volunteer in your community. You get to. You don’t have to clean your apartment or dorm room. You get to. You don’t have to be by a loved one’s side as they fight disease or injury. You get to. You don’t have to volunteer someday to coach your kids’ teams, teach their Sunday School classes, guide them in finishing 4-H projects or read them books before bed. You get to. Hopefully you’ve thanked your parents for doing this all for you. If you haven’t, do so. You don’t have to apologize when you wrong someone, and you don’t have to forgive when you’ve been wronged. You get to. Be thankful for the opportunities that so many people negatively consider chores. Seize the opportunity to do all that we get to do and approach your responsibilities with the attitude that you’re fortunate to get to do them.

My second piece of advice is related to a social change I find alarming. Live your life in the real world, with face-to-face communication, and not on Twitter and Facebook. I’m not saying social media is bad. Just don’t let it become your reality. Don’t let Facebook pictures and status updates become a way of comparing or measuring the success of your life. If you start to feel yourself doing so, then take a break from Facebook. Don’t use tweets or online comments as platforms for announcing to the world your problems with others. If you have a problem with someone, have a grown-up face-to-face conversation. Unfortunately, some unkind words are posted on Facebook or tweeted on Twitter that decent people would never say aloud. It’s disheartening, because in those words I find myself hurting for the person who’s been harmed and questioning the integrity of the person posting the comment next to their profile picture. I find myself questioning the character of people who “like” the status. Seriously, when you post or tweet something that doesn’t “mesh” with who you are in face-to-face interactions, you leave people wondering who the real you is. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, you shouldn’t write it. Bambi’s mother had it right. Be kind. You’ll enjoy life a lot more if you are, and you’ll make others’ lives more enjoyable as well.

Nineteen years ago I was sitting in this gym, wearing the graduation robe, both anxious and eager for the journey ahead. I’m convinced the preparation I received at WACO was key to my success in college and beyond. I’ve taught at other quality schools, but am convinced 100 percent there is tremendous value in what you gain here as an individual and not simply as an academic learner. It’s why I choose to live here and send my three sons to school here. The personal interactions here and opportunities to develop your talents in a wide range of activities have built up your abilities to meet the challenges life is going to throw at you. So, my final piece of advice to you is to take pride in where you’ve come from and show gratitude to those who helped you get here. Live your lives in ways that make us proud to say we played a role in creating you.

It’s been fun to attend many of your graduation parties and see pictures from your pasts and hear you talk about your plans for the future. My future no longer includes you as my students.

…There is so much I could thank this class of 2013 for. I have been fortunate to get to teach you and thank you for the role you’ve played in making me a better teacher. Go forward from here with a get-to attitude about all that’s ahead of you.



Comments (1)
Posted by: Joellen Jepson | Jun 18, 2013 21:43

Awesome advice from an amazing teacher!  Thank you so much for sharing this in your article, Brooks!  Joellen Jepson

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