The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 24, 2014

Dear Class of 2014: Live fast but drive slower

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

— High school graduation is a personal milestone, an academic benchmark and a movie cliché all rolled into one.

If I could talk to my 18-year-old self, I would say to treasure your loved ones and drive slower — much slower. All those speeding tickets might have paid for a cruise, and I would have been much more patient with my mother if I knew she’d be gone before I turned 30.

Grads get showered with all kinds of gifts and greeting cards so repay this generosity and goodwill. Life your life to the fullest without being reckless, forcing your parents to attend a premature funeral.

This is a time of joy and bliss, a bittersweet chapter of a tale that hopefully stretches decades instead of coming to an abrupt end. Those stories happen all too often, and there are no rewrites or reboots.

Embrace being young and precocious, filled with hope and exuberance. Celebrate your triumphs but be even prouder of your rebounds. Reflect on your accomplishments but use your diploma as a springboard rather than treading water.

I have enjoyed getting to meet many of the area’s graduating seniors through championship games and concerts, talent exhibitions and community events. And I want to have the chance to read about your engagements, listen to your songs on the radio and meet your kids some day.

So please think before letting that speedometer rocket. I ask myself if I would have heeded this advice, or if it would have helped three classmates who died from speed-induced car crashes before age 20. It may not make a bit of difference but it’s worth a column to try anyway.