OPINION: Plan for change, Class of 2011

Around the time I graduated from college, an unusual song popped into frequent rotation on the local pop radio station. Back then, the radio waves were filled by the likes of Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys. But this song, “Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen),” was different. The spoken-word lyrics, intoned drily by an Australian actor, included a host of commencement-speech wisdom sayings.

“Do one thing every day that scares you,” the narrator chanted over the pulsing electronic music.  “Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.”

That song became 1999’s graduation anthem and made number 45 on the Billboard charts. You can still find it, and countless parodies, on YouTube—something that didn’t exist when it was made. Artists are still making songs like these, with positive and uplifting words of advice meant for this bittersweet moment when so many people are receptive to messages of guidance and hope. I expect we’ll find out what 2011’s graduation song will be a few weeks from now.

Songs of advice are particularly welcome now, as today’s graduates, college and high school alike, are emerging into one of the toughest economies in recent memory. The national unemployment average sits at 9 percent, and the under-25s have it worst when it comes to busting into the workforce. That means some scary choices: Do teens join the workforce, the military, or try college or trade school in the hope of finding a job when they emerge? College degree holders are generally paid considerably more than those who do not seek a degree, but that isn’t universally the case, and tuition keeps going up.

Typical advice to graduating teens includes a push to do what you love. Generally speaking, that’s a great idea. But you’re going to want to try before you buy.  I’ve known some folks that gave up high-powered jobs to tackle some craft that they loved, but then endured pay cuts and real sacrifice. I’ve know others, in their prime earning years, who were stuck in jobs that ground on them, but stayed because of the reality that the bills must be paid. That balancing act, of career attractions, needs and income, is something every working adult must do.

For those emerging from school, now is the time to make a plan about where you want to go in life, and get serious about it. At the same time, understand that change is certain: the economy, industry and especially, you, will change. Trust yourself to know when it’s time to take a new step.

Right now, whether you are ready or not, that step is upon you. Graduation is a universal moment for nearly every educated person in the world. Some people live out their lives waiting for change. You are granted this big change for free. Seize this moment and make of it the best you can.

Also, please celebrate safely this season. Graduation is more than just another day—there are good reasons why family members fly in from miles around to celebrate these young men and women completing their education. It’s a time of hope, promise and renewal: they’re there to celebrate the coming of a new generation. For their sake, I urge teens to stop and consider the consquences of risky behavior like drinking and driving, not just for yourself, but for those around you.

Turning over the clock

Speaking of milestones, the Snoqualmie Valley Record this week turned over its odometer, so to speak. We’ve entered Week 1 of a whole new volume, 98. You can tell what week and volume we’re on by looking at the bottom left side of the front page.

These numbers are a little esoteric. Some newspapers start their publication weeks in January, ending 52 weeks later in December. But here, as far as I can tell, publication began in early June. That’s why we have Week 1 now.

Here’s to a 98th year of covering the issues and facets of the Valley.

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