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Elizabeth Davies: Lessons learned long after graduation

Elizabeth Davies

Sometimes, amid all the cap-throwing and the cash gifts, we gloss over the idea that learning hasn’t ended.

It is, in fact, just beginning.

Sure, graduations are about reflecting on the past and looking ahead to the future. They are a time for celebration and honoring a job well done.

For me, graduation always meant one thing: relief. I was relieved that the tests were over and the homework was done. Never again would I have to force my mind to think about parallelograms.

But one thing I didn’t realize at my graduations was that, for as much as I knew, there was so much I didn’t know. The resume-writing thing? I had that nailed. Cooking for one? I could figure that out as I went along. 401(k) contributions? I could ask Dad when the time comes.

Perhaps the more important lessons were the ones I learned on life’s bumpy highway. They are, quite possibly, lessons you have to learn by tripping and falling flat on your face. No amount of warning — because I’m sure some wise person tried to warn me — would have convinced me quite as well as a little road rash.

It’s been more than a decade since my last graduation, and the list of lessons I’ve learned is endless. Here are just a few of the things I wish I had known when I graduated:

There will never be enough time or money. Figure out how to make it work with what you’ve got.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Corny? Yes. True? You betcha.

If you want to wear jeans and flip-flops, stay in college. If you want to get paid, dress the part.

When you are 30 years old and in a pinch, you probably are going to call your family for help before you call your friends. Make sure you’ve got your priorities in order.

Freedom and independence mean responsibility — and that’s expensive. Save up.        

Just because you’re holding a diploma does not mean you are entitled to the job of your choice. It just means they might let you in the building.

If you plan to “go back to school someday,” you had better make that “someday” start right now. There will always be reasons why you can’t later on.

The things you do right might never be noticed by anyone. But those things you do wrong? Those could haunt you for a long time to come. Think before you act.

Perseverance and dedication can get you further than God-given intelligence.

Be kind to everyone, always. That GPA doesn’t matter much in the real world; it’s who you know. More important — it’s who likes you.

The older you get, the more perspective you gain. It just might be possible that people who have been around a bit longer might have some valid advice.

School was just the place where you learned how to learn. Life is where the real learning begins. Embrace it: Don’t let a day pass without learning something new.

Contact Elizabeth Davies at edavies@rrstar.com.