West Side Stories

A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.

Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.

Life Instruction Manual for Graduates

Hope, Kids

Recently, I became the mom of a college graduate. As I said recently, I have mixed feelings on the subject. But rather than wallow in the fact that my baby is now an adult, I’m focusing my efforts on preparing him to start his post-collegiate life.

As a graduation gift to our son, I put together a book I called a "Life Instruction Manual." The idea came from my last-minute panic to impart wisdom upon him before he walks out the door. (We moms just can’t leave well enough alone.) But I knew that my advice about laundry and personal hygiene wouldn’t be enough.

So I started on an e-mail and Facebook “campaign” asking family, friends, teachers, former employers and my son's friends to share their experiences and wishes for his future. I have to tell you, the response was amazing…and humbling. I learned so much from what people sent to me. I couldn’t help but wish I had half of this information when I was a college graduate. (It probably could have saved me a lot of time and trouble.)

Of course the book included lots of inside jokes and ridiculous comments that only my son would understand as well as congratulations and well wishes for his future. But people also sent in great ideas and suggestions for what to do in work and in life. I was so impressed that I wanted to share some of it with you, in case you have or know a graduate in your life. Here, in no particular order, are some random nuggets from The Life Instruction Manual:

  • Life’s lessons aren’t planned nor are they beautifully written in a “How to for Dummies” book. It’s the experiences, it’s the moments, and it’s the surprises in life that bring the most joy, the most fun and the most memories. Let them happen to you and they will guide you to your place in this world.
  • It’s important that you like where you’re heading. The rest should take care of itself.
  • Know that all things worth doing are the result of things that are hard; hard on your time, hard on your mind, hard on your emotions, and sometimes even hard on your family.
  • Save anxiety for catastrophes. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Never internalize … TALK TO SOMEONE. Be interactive. Being alone sucks.
  • Never be overwhelmed with or stop believing in the idea that you can make the world a better place. Saving the world for one person might be letting them skip in front of you in the grocery line or merge from the passing lane. In small deeds, you may just accomplish big things for many people. In other words…be nice.
  • Dating Advice: It’s a minefield. Spend a lot of money and hope for the best.
  • You’re going to do some things that make you cringe later. That’s ok, because the day you start to fear making mistakes is the day you need to move on to something else.
  • Spoil your wife, not your kids.
  • Seek out heroes — men and women whose character and achievements are admirable and make the world a better place — read about them in biographies and movies, get to know them if they are your contemporaries. Then learn from them.
  • Say, “I don’t know.” Follow that up with, “I’ll find out, though.” People will trust you more in the long run.
  • Be loyal…to your family, friends, and neighbors — and to your boss and your colleagues in the workplace…and to the Green Bay Packers.
  • Eat plenty of fiber, because seriously, that should just be common sense.
  • Go to bed laughing.
  • Advice when defusing a bomb: DON’T CUT THE RED WIRE!!!
  • Things will change, priorities will change, people change, but if you have passion for what you are doing - all will be good.
  • Always raise your hand. Volunteer at every turn. Never pass up an opportunity to learn or to lead or to help someone else or to go to a new and unexplored place in your mind or on the planet. Learn to view everything as a worthwhile experience, even those that are painful and unpleasant.
  • You will never be as young as you are right now. So, stop wasting time and enjoy the present. Don't wait for life to start, it already did.
  • Stay sharp, love everyone (see 1 Corinthians 13), take risks, enjoy yourself…and others!
  • Work hard to stay in contact with your friends. As your life evolves, it’s easy to lose touch with grade school, high school and college friends. These are the people that will be there for you forever. Make the effort to follow them throughout their lives. It will pay off in spades.

To all of the graduates out there, I wish you the best of luck and a hearty congratulations on your academic success. Now comes the hard part….

This site uses Facebook comments to make it easier for you to contribute. If you see a comment you would like to flag for spam or abuse, click the "x" in the upper right of it. By posting, you agree to our Terms of Use.

Page Tools