Dear High School Graduate,

This is such an exciting time for you and I want to congratulate you on your incredible achievement.

You’re on your way to living on your own and doing your own thing, and it’s going to be an extraordinary experience! As you begin the next season of your life, I’d like to share some important truths for you to consider. Read them carefully and remember each one as you begin your adventure.

You have the freedom to define who you are.

You can choose to create your own identity and live it! Don’t allow others to define you, rather build your own voice and vision 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 gem. Alter it when necessary and honor it always. Don’t let anyone take it 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 big steps toward them! And if you don’t know just yet, please don’t worry! You’re still so young; you have time to discover what you love and even more time to pursue it. Also, passions sometimes change as you grow older and learn more about this world and where you see yourself in it. You never have to be stuck in one dream. Remember, you are in charge of your life, so make decisions as you go, according to your heart. Listen to it carefully. 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 like to fault for your mistakes. Don’t make excuses. Own your actions 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 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 on taking responsibility for our lives and how we live them.

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 the tumultuous turns with rational reasoning and inner strength. Find the support you need through people you trust. And take 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 action. I promise it’s worth traveling that tough terrain. You will ultimately triumph with newfound strength and insight for meeting that challenge. You will also develop integrity and this is the ultimate trait you will have earned by confronting the challenge head-on. The consequence of resolving conflicts responsibly is not only growing in maturity but you will also have 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 probably 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 knowledge you gained from that experience. Every time we fail, we are given an opportunity to grow and oftentimes, we grow the most through our failures.

Life is hard work.

You must learn this lesson: in order to live a successful life, you have to put forth the effort. Period. Do you want a good job? Train yourself, get an education, start at the bottom like many do, to get there. Do you want good friends? BE a good friend. Do 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 drop you lower. It’s up to you to take the steps UP. Life can get ugly and downright difficult . . . but hold on! The hard circumstances you endure will inevitably be the stuff that reveals new layers of who you are. Every hardship builds wisdom. Life gets richer with adversity. Don’t let it take you down so low you can’t get back up. You will always discover some purpose in your pain if you’re open to finding it. Each trial you go through will ultimately transform you. These are the lessons in life that will bring you strength, resilience, and courage.

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 and please don’t destroy it. Be mindful of how you use the resources this wonderful world gives and be accountable for maintaining this extraordinary space we all live in. Don’t be careless or reckless in how you treat the natural gifts it offers us all. 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 OK. 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 those dreams while you’re chasing them.

Life is full of opportunities. 

One of the greatest gifts this life has to offer each and every one of us is the freedom to reinvent our goals with new passion 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 to new friends, new jobs, new pursuits because every new thing that comes your way can be a stepping stone for something extraordinary in your life. What you might think is meaningless can transform into something quite meaningful. Don’t overlook those small opportunities, because often they are the ones that open doors to something significant.

Love who you are. 

You are the only you there is. No one else has the unique gifts you have. No one else has your distinct talents, abilities, and potential. Cherish who you are, because you were designed on purpose for a purpose. Believe that! Always love yourself right where you are in life, no matter how messy things get or how mad at yourself you might be. You will be with you for the rest of your life, so be your own best friend. Life is so much easier if you treat yourself with the dignity and love you deserve. 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.

Now go build your life on these truths and know you have a band of people who love you and are so proud of you!

Originally published on the author’s blog

You may also like:

10 Graduation Gifts That Will Get You a Real Thank You

A Letter to My Kindergarten Graduate

Dear Graduate, You’ll Always Have a Place Here With Me

To the Class of 2019: You Are Loved

Christine Carter

Christine Carter writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. Her work is published on several various online publications and she is the author of "Help and Hope While You're Healing: A woman's guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness." and “Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World.” Both books sold on Amazon.