Advice to the Graduating Class of 2012

I've been asked to offer some advice to our grads in our school's newspaper. Teachers usually offer some short quote, but I've never done well with brevity. I asked if I could write something longer, then put out a request for help on Facebook and got some wonderful suggestions from my army of wise friends. Here's my first draft. It should probably be shorter, but let me know what to add, cut, or fix.
College, the military, work: They’re all hard work. They’re much harder than high school. Imagine how easy your classes would be if you went back to middle school. That’s how easy high school is compared to the world beyond. Get ready to work a lot harder.

In college, don't worry so much about picking the right major that you avoid taking classes you are curious about. You may miss the thing you'll love to study, and that's more likely to lead to the career you are good at and truly enjoy.

That being said, take money seriously. Tax payers gave you a gift of a public education, and they didn’t expect a thank you card. Sallie Mae will expect your soul. (Your credit card company will be even worse. Avoid those guys.) Whether you get a student loan or a gift from your parents, learn that it’s real money and that you have to pay it back somehow. Hopefully, you’ll even learn that you have to pay society back for that public education, too.

Don't get a tattoo until you're at least 25. Some of you will ignore this advice, and, when you're older, you'll regret it. If you get a tattoo somewhere you can't hide during a job interview... Well, unemployed people have lots of time to think about their bad decisions.

When dating, try to find somebody you would be proud to introduce to your good friends and your parents. Recognize that the thing you will do most with this person, in the long run, is talk. Once you’ve found this person, if you want to keep him/her, keep talking.

Travel. Go to China. Go to Europe. Go camping in eastern Oregon. Go to Ashland, watch some Shakespeare, and travel to ancient Rome or a world filled with magic creatures. Travel by reading a good book. Just go. Traveling doesn't just increase what you know; it expands what you're capable of imagining.

The world can be a very difficult place. In some ways, it's going to get harder during your lifetime. You will have opportunities to make it better, and I hope you take those. But, more than anything, remember that the world is worth it; it’s filled with enough beauty and wonder to justify all the hope you'll need to get through it.

Oh, and keep in touch with your high school teachers. We deserve to hear about your successes, because we’re very proud of you.