By Helena Rodriquez: Freedom Newspapers
It’s hard to believe that 21 years ago it was me walking across the stage to receive my high school diploma from Portales High School.
I was filled with ambition, dreams and a strong determination to be somebody. I had a specific plan of action and then, from there on, everything else in my fairy-tale future was going to naturally fall into place.
Of course things didn’t fall into place as perfectly as I thought they would. It has taken years, even decades to get there, and I’m still not quite there yet. After receiving a college degree in journalism in 1989 from Eastern New Mexico University, I’m back at Eastern again working on two master’s degrees, hoping to get it right this time, but not losing sight of my original dreams, which have brought me full circle in life and still keep me going every day.
So my words of wisdom to you graduates of 2006 are these:
l Dream high, but know that to achieve your dreams, you must be willing to stretch your arms out until they are uncomfortable and ache, until you think you can’t hold them out any longer. You must keep those arms outstretched even when that goal seems slightly out of your grasp, and then pray that you muster up the strength to just reach out and snatch it at the right time.
l Life is not a get-rich-quick infomercial. Nothing substitutes for hard work, loyalty and dedication. This means starting out at the bottom and being willing to work your way up. This means being willing to take a step back at times, in order to be able to take a step forward.
l Be open to change and have a backup plan. Sometimes our dreams are just a starting point. I was 101 percent positive that I wanted to be a newspaper journalist, but once in the field, I quickly started having second thoughts and wanted more. The past 16 1/2 years that I’ve spent in journalism haven’t been wasted though. They’ve been a staircase filled with many steps, some smooth and flat, others steep and rocky, sometimes winding in a spiral, but a staircase, nonetheless, leading me to another desire along the way to study Latin American literature and becoming a novelist.
l Listen up and stop the eye rolling. This may be cute in high school, but in the real world, you need people on your side, people you may not expect right now who will have a significant impact on your future. That pest or geek right now may be your boss someday, your colleague, your client, or even your soulmate.
l Listen to words of wisdom. Others have been there and done that before, and also learn from your mistakes. God always gives us a second and third chance to do it again and get it right, so if you get it wrong the first time, remember life is short. Fix it quickly and move on.
l Take sensible risks. What the heck, you’re young. Be willing to leave your comfort zone, even if you stay close to home. We’re becoming a more global society and the traditional recent high school graduate in college is slowly becoming the nontraditional student at most colleges and universities. Not everyone will share the same views as you, but don’t automatically dismiss them. Knowledge and information expands your mind and helps you to see through others’ eyes as well.
l As I constantly tell my daughter, Laura, whatever profession you chose, be sure to give back to your community in some way, shape or form, and in one way or another, help make this a world a better place when you leave.
l Invest in others’ dreams as well, just as your parents, teachers, role models and peers have invested in yours.
l Finally, as you follow your dreams, remember that your dreams will change along the way, as will the characters and backdrop. And most importantly, you will change.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: