Into the great wide open

It’s commencement season for high-school and college seniors—that time of year when young graduates toss their caps into the air in a move that symbolizes both throwing off the confines of school and making a leap into the great wide open.

The sight of those caps always makes me feel a little bittersweet. It's not necessarily that I want to be there again, at such a literal and metaphorical crossroads, one fraught with the kinds of questions and decisions that come with major life choices. Rather, though I'm not typically prone to such regrets, I find myself wishing for another chance. Another opportunity to heed instinct, to make bold choices.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with the life I've landed. Every regret holds a lesson, a pause for reflection.

And yet there's a lingering “What if?” What if I'd ignored the fears? Told that nagging voice of reason to just shut the hell up already? Purposefully taken more of the wildest, most unmapped paths?

What if? What if? What if?

If I could give any one piece of advice to this year's crop of graduates, it would be to consider those future “what ifs.” Take the uncharted road. Embrace the unknown. Be afraid. Be uncomfortable. Push at boundaries, physical or otherwise. Travel. Apply for weird jobs. Strike up conversations with strangers.

Recently, SN&R staff combed through essays for the paper's annual College Essay Contest (see “The write stuff,” SN&R Feature Story, page 17). As we narrowed down the winning contenders, I was struck not just by the diversity of stories, but also by a shared spirit of daring.

These are kids who don't really need advice. Most are already smart, gutsy and confident beyond their years. Most of them know to take the leap, fearlessly.