As you graduate high school

Tomorrow at 5:30 in the afternoon – in the usual, oppressive mid-June heat – our fourth and youngest kid will walk across the well-trodden grass of Stengel Field to accept his diploma affirming graduation from Crescenta Valley High School. Although I know many pairs of eyes are reading along, I direct the following thoughts specifically to him:
Son, as I wrote in a column two years ago when your brother was also about to graduate from CV, it is my privilege and honor to pen some words of advice. I offer them with love, encouragement, and much prayer for your direction and development over the coming years. From this point on – as you head to college and begin the next stage of your young life – it will be considerably more difficult for me to impart (impose?) any wisdom or advice to you. So buckle up, here goes nothing.
You are the last of four siblings to graduate – all but one of you from CVHS – as did your Mom and I, along with many uncles, aunts and cousins before you. We are a deeply rooted bunch, we Chases.
Granted, the CVHS you leave behind tomorrow is a much different school than the one from which we graduated. I shake my head in disbelief when I think about the permanent Sheriff-in-residence and security staff now assigned to your campus. Such a need does not speak well for our society’s so-called enlightenment and progress. I apologize that my generation “matured” into adults who forgot how to teach responsibility, honor and the true source of self-esteem. (At least your test scores are high and you recycle.)
It wasn’t always so. For my graduating class, our most pressing concerns were who would win the beard growing contest during “The Day,” whether the Rowdies would be allowed to cheer at a football game, and who had been busted for smoking (cigarettes) up on Tobacco Road. Again, I am so sorry.
This is a busy week for you. Today, you turned 18. (Happy birthday!) Tomorrow you graduate. Although you thought (and often complained) this day would never come, here we are. Believe me when I say that other big milestones of life will be here faster than you expect, too – graduation from college, marriage, a career, your first child, another career. Life moves fast, son. Savor the success of today. It will already be but a memory this time next week.
Follow your considerable creative gifts wherever they lead. If a door opens, walk through it. If a window opens on an intriguing opportunity – look into it. Even though I was twitchy with creative tendencies, the only advice ever given to your old man was to “get a degree in business.” I’m still trying to recover.
Seek out new friends. I know you’ll be busy with schoolwork and staying in shape. But take the time to meet like-minded people. Studies repeatedly show that friendships made in college are often the longest lasting. I attended several different colleges back in the day and lacked opportunities to make friends. I regret this terribly – especially as I plod through my mid-life season. Your older brother and sister have deep and lasting friendships they forged in college. Do likewise. You’ll be better a better man, have a better life because of it.
Be reliable. Be dependable. Be ethical. Be hard to replace. Be creative. Be discerning. Be on time. Be a good witness. Be humble. Be true to your faith, your family, your friends.
I’ll finish with a quote often attributed to Mark Twain, one ideal for this special time in your life. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” To which I will add, “… and visit home often.”
I’ll see you ‘round town.

Jim Chase is an award-winning advertising copywriter and lifetime CV resident. Find him online at