Advice for the Class of 2022 high school and college graduates

The new school year has ended. Graduation party invitations started pouring in.

Graduation is an exciting time. For parents, it’s great to see our children thrive and head out into the world. For students, there is a sense of accomplishment, whether they leave college for work or leave high school for college, trade school, the military, or a job.

Here is some advice for recent graduates as they embark on their next adventure. (Previous advice for graduates in the column from several years ago can be found here and here.)

As your career takes off and your salary goes up, you’ll be tempted to buy every year a new phone, the coolest car, the big house, and the fancy clothes. While it’s okay to respect yourself to some extent, don’t overdo it.

Things eventually wear out. But you will always have memories of the trips you took, the concerts and ball games you attended and other experiences, from museums to family reunions.

There is a lot of truth to the saying, “It’s not what you know. That’s what you know.” Regardless of how talented you are, sometimes you need someone to introduce your talents to get noticed.

Learn to make new connections. Build an extensive network. Even casual relationships can help. I got an interview on The Morning Call 18 years ago based on an introduction by a former Call reporter whom I met briefly at a journalism conference.

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Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you feel yourself overwhelmed or stressed, seek help. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Preventive health care is very important at all ages. Get an annual physical and visit the dentist regularly. Your insurance should cover preventative care, so you should use it.

It can be scary moving to a new city or taking on a new job that you’re not sure you can handle. But doing so can help you grow, personally and professionally. Putting yourself out there is never easy, but having faith that you can conquer new challenges.

If for some reason it doesn’t work, you will still learn from it. And you will rise again.

We all have the feeling that something is not right. You may feel it when you buy a used car. Or when you’re looking at an apartment or a house. Or when you get a job offer. Or when you start a new relationship.

Trust your instincts when you get that feeling. Get out of the situation and find a situation that doesn’t make you nervous.

Pre-cut the vegetables and measure the rest of the ingredients into a small bowl before you start cooking. This can save you from forgetting ingredients or rushing when the stove is on.

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The sooner you learn to cook, the better off you will be. You’ll save money by not eating out as much as possible, and you’ll eat healthier. Plus, there’s quite a sense of accomplishment when you experiment with new dishes that turn out to be perfect. Cooking can quickly become a relaxing hobby.

There is more wiggle room in your life than you think. There is a long tradition of haggling when buying a car. You can also try negotiating at a later time. I can tell you from experience that if you complain about your cable bill and threaten to cancel, your cable company can cut your break. If you have good credit, your bank may also lower the rate on your credit card, if you ask for it.

When hiring someone to do home repairs or provide other services, don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price. The worst thing that can happen is that your request will be rejected. Then you can decide whether to accept the offer or go shopping.

We all have frustrations, from rising fuel prices to situations at work or at home.

Focus on what you can change. Sometimes even small adjustments can make a big difference. Exercising and eating better can improve your health, for example. Changing jobs or ending a hot relationship can reduce your stress.

Realize that you can’t change everything. You can’t vote for your neighbors or do anything about inflation. Manage situations as best you can, but don’t let them overwhelm you, because you can’t do much.

Being a young adult can be exhausting. It’s important to take the time to get yourself on the right path. But don’t be selfish. It’s always important to be part of something bigger. It could be a union at work, a charitable or civic organization in your community or a movement such as the ward.

A shining example is that of Emmaus High School student whom I wrote about recently after he recruited 113 volunteers to clean up trash at Jordan Park in Allentown for Earth Day.

If you move from your hometown and your family and friends, it doesn’t mean you’re not part of that community. You can always come home again. And if you have the chance, pay back your community for the start it gave you.

I recently wrote about how the Class of 1970 of Dieruff High School in Allentown brainstormed to give back to their alma mater during their 50th reunion. The idea sparked a wider community effort to build outdoor classrooms.

If you can’t afford to donate money, donate your time. Arts, civic and sports schools and associations are always looking for volunteers and mentors who can share their wisdom with the younger generation.

Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or paul.muschick@mcall.com

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