Congratulations on such a wonderful achievement and I wish you the very best! May I offer you some advice? I know you are basking in the spotlight of success and you are probably soaking in all that delicious attention for this fantastic accomplishment! By all means, take it in. Take it all in. I'm sure the last thing you want is a letter telling you what to do, but this really is much more than that. You may not want to read it now, in the height of the celebration, but when things simmer down and you realize that this is it- the beginning of your life as an adult? Maybe you will search once again, for these words to perhaps gleam some wisdom from one who experienced both the thrill of graduation (high school and college) and the reality of the world you have officially set foot into, as an adult. These are the things you simply need to know.
You have the freedom to define who you are. No one else owns you, only you. You can choose to create your own identity and live it! Don't allow others to define you, rather build your own voice and make decisions that support it. Other people will always have their opinions about you, but you have the ability to allow them to matter- or not. As you grow older and your life evolves, so will your definition. Treasure it like a cherished jewel. Alter it when necessary and honor it always. Don't let anyone take that away from you.
Find your passion. You may be wondering about your future dreams and goals, as most graduates do. If you already have your ideas and formed your plans, embrace them! Take those mighty steps toward them! And if you don't know just yet, please don't worry! You're still so young; you have so much time to discover what you love. Also, passions sometimes change as you grow older and learn more about this world and who you are. Always allow yourself to birth new loves in your life. You never have to be stuck in one dream. Remember, you are in charge of your life and who you are- so make decisions as you go, according to your heart. You'll be much happier if you do.
Be responsible for your actions! From this moment on, YOU are accountable for who you are. Not your parents, your teachers, your peers or anyone you would so easily like to fault for your mistakes. No one is to blame but you, so don't make excuses. Own it, because that is part of growing up. Make amends, adjustments, and decisions that allow you to redeem your bad choices, and do it with conviction. If you spend your life blaming others for your mistakes, your life choices, or your failures... you will never respect your own worth as a unique and capable individual. What a waste that would be to live a life constantly making excuses for yourself. Self respect and confidence are built through your very own responsibility.
Life is unfair. You may already know this, but I promise you that you will continue to face many things in life that are unfair. This world is a broken place, and because we live in it, things go wrong- often. If you can accept this now, you will be better able to handle much of what comes your way. The reality is that you will have to endure difficult situations, some out of your control... be prepared to accept them as they come, and learn to navigate through these tumultuous turns with rational reasoning and inner strength. Find the support you need through people you trust. And find comfort in knowing you are not alone.
There is no easy out. Seriously. If you find yourself stuck in a difficult situation, usually the only way out of it is through it. Be courageous and honest. Face the hard conversations and take responsible action. I promise it's worth traveling that tough terrain. You will ultimately triumph with new-found strength and insight for meeting that challenge. You will also develop integrity, the ultimate trait you will have earned. The consequence of handling conflicts responsibly is having the peace in knowing you did the best you could.
You will fail. A lot. Failure is a part of life. Period. You may try several new things and fail miserably at them. You may fail with some relationships, some jobs, some dreams. You will regret many choices you make, and perhaps some may have lasting consequences. But always remember you can learn from it. Every failure has something useful for you to gain. Give yourself grace, because you are human. Make sure you are able to make amends where needed, and move forward with the new insight and knowledge you gained from that experience.
Life is hard work. You must learn this lesson: In order to live a successful life, you must put forth the effort. Period. You want a good job? Train yourself, get an education, start at the bottom, like many do, to get there. You want good friends? BE a good friend. You want to be respected? BE respectful. Nobody owes you anything, you may think they do- but they don't. YOU have to make the life you want. Don't wait for it thinking it will come to you and you are entitled to it. You have to earn it. Plain and simple. And if by chance you are handed a great opportunity, embrace it and call yourself incredibly lucky.
Don't give up. You will be faced with conflicts and circumstances that can either raise you higher or kick you lower. It's up to you to take the steps UP. Life gets ugly, terrifying, cruel, and downright difficult... but hold on! The stuff you endure, will inevitably be the stuff that takes you to a new and fulfilling level of living. Life gets richer, with adversity. No one is without hardship. Don't let it take you down so low you can't get back up. You will always find purpose in your pain, if you're open to finding it. Each trial you go through brings forth a greater gratitude to savor. You'll see...
Respect this world and the people in it. You may not fully understand the complexities of this vast glorious earth, but as time goes on you will. Don't take it for granted, it is as fragile as the blade of grass you pluck. If you don't care for it, it will die. Period. Honor this globe, don't take it for granted, and don't destroy it with carelessness. As for the people living in this world, they are valuable and worthy of your utmost respect. No matter who they are, what they believe or where they live. Every human being matters. Don't disregard anyone as less valuable than the next.
Believe in yourself. You may not know the plan for your life just yet. You might feel anxious about your future. Perhaps you don't have a clue what you want to do, or who you want to be, or where you want to go... that's okay. You are still so young! You have so much time to figure it all out. Don't feel like you have to have it all perfectly planned. Trust that in time, you will discover your dreams and find purpose in your life. And if you do have a plan and know exactly who you want to be, go for it! Use your determination and commitment to reach your goals, but always remain open to the possibility of change. You may feel differently about your dreams years from now- heck- months from now, and that's okay. One of the greatest gifts this life has to offer each and every one of us, is the freedom to reinvent our goals and begin again.
Always know that each day will offer you more opportunities, if you are looking for them. Keep your eyes and heart open, and don't ever give up on yourself. You are the only you there is. Cherish who you are, love yourself, right where you are in your life, always. You will be with you for the rest of your life, so be your own best friend. As you begin this journey in creating a life for yourself, the greatest joy will come from within. Don't look for it or depend on it from anyone or search for it anywhere else.
This moment? Is the first moment of the rest of your life. Every single moment that you are alive is a blessing. It's hard at your age to truly get that, but you need to.
Make it count.
Make every moment count...for something.
An original version of this post was published over at TheMomCafe.com, where you can find more words of encouragement by Christine Carter.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more