13 Things I Wish I Knew on Graduation Day

  Dreams are great, but sometimes sleep is more important.

A graduate at Howard University’s 146th commencement exercises on May 10, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
A graduate at Howard University’s 146th commencement exercises on May 10, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Allison Shelley/Getty Images for DKC

7. Call somebody.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve chatted with roughly 30 friends, family members and work colleagues. But I’ve only made one phone call. Texts, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc., have replaced human interaction. Pick up a phone and let somebody hear your voice. 

8. Move changing the world to the bottom of the to-do list.

There’s nothing wrong with aiming high, but most of us won’t change the world—though a good commencement speaker will make you think you can. A speaker can be just as impactful by convincing you to change your small community.

9. Celebrate something every day.

When I was in my early 20s, I landed a job interview but was mindful not to get too excited. My mother, however, told me to get excited. “Celebrate the fact that you even got this far,” she told me. “It’s farther than a lot of people made it. They didn’t even get a call for the interview!” Big or small, successes are worth acknowledging and celebrating. And don’t ever compare yours with someone else’s.

10. Let people go.

Sometimes the only way your life is going to change is if you get certain people out of it.  Don’t be afraid to cut them loose.     

11. Sleep.

I’m learning this the hard way. For years I’ve prided myself on just how little sleep I need in order to function. Friends and colleagues have been amazed.

My doctor isn’t impressed. This week I was prescribed medication for a skin condition brought on by stress on the body and lack of sleep. I fear that might be only the beginning of my issues. You have to take care of yourself. 

12. Realize that life is really going to suck at times.

Illness, divorce, financial trouble, family conflict, failure. Life can be one big, ugly mess. Of course you will survive these experiences, but the key is to put them into perspective as a necessary part of your growth. Each experience builds your character and prepares you for the next challenge. Or, as my pastor is fond of saying, “When life keeps putting you through the fire, eventually you’re going to come out fireproof!” 

13. College is over. Now your education begins.

Never pass up a chance to learn something new. Don’t turn down an opportunity just because it’s not what you usually do. Don’t ignore someone just because you disagree with him or her. Every experience and every person presents an opportunity to learn. Grab it.

T.J. Holmes is a journalist and TV personality. Formerly of CNN, he can currently be found at MSNBC, and his commentary can be found online. Follow him on Twitter.

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