The Bright Side: For the graduates

Published 9:06 am Wednesday, May 27, 2020

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With graduation season fast approaching and school districts figuring out the logistics of their respective ceremonies, I wanted to take this time to share some words with our local graduates.

I want to start by saying that I, to this day, hardly have anything figured out. My experiences through college have shaped me in ways I never thought they would. And I will be the first to tell you that my journey to where I am today is probably much different than most.

When I graduated high school, I was so ready for a new challenge. I knew what I wanted to study, where I wanted to go to college and what kind of people I wanted to associate with.

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Marine biology was it for me, there was no changing my mind on that. My teachers told me I had a knack for writing, but had no idea what I would ever do with a major in journalism.

I was in the honors program all throughout high school, so naturally I decided to enroll in an honors program at my first college.

My established friend group from high school, all honors students in theatre, vowed to stay in touch. We agreed to see each other over Christmas and spring breaks and visit one another when we could.

Then college came.

My first semester, I realized my wonderful 4.0 GPA I had maintained in high school was going to be a lot harder to keep with six honors level college courses.

Botany almost did me in that semester. I remember calling my dad one day after class in tears. I told him I was switching my major to communications because the science courses were too much for me.

He reminded me about all the times I told him how my dream was to save the ocean. I chose to stick it out, but found myself questioning my decision for the fours years that followed.

My first week of college was spent hanging out with other honors program students. We would get lunch, hangout in each other’s dorm rooms and got along well. But then something in me told me to try and branch out.

I started to meet film majors, aspiring artists, rugby players and those who were going to school and in basic training. Students who had played water polo, practiced crystal healing and wanted to become history teachers all became my friends. People who I had nothing in common with, but loved to be with.

That was around the time I started to figured out I actually had nothing figured out.

I dropped out of the honors program after the first year. I ended up seeing some friend from high school, but spent more time with my family and the new people I had met.

This “next step” was anything but what I had expected it to be. It challenged me, drained me inspired me and made me who I am today.

What I want to say to our graduating seniors is this: you may think you have everything figured out, think you know exactly what you want, think that the world will cooperate with your plans, but in the grand scheme of things, you’re probably wrong. And that’s the beauty of it all.

The next few years of your life – whether you jump into the workforce, head to basic training or go off to college – will change you. You will grow and become who you were really meant to be.

And I’m here to tell you that that change will be the greatest thing you could ever experience.

I won’t sugarcoat things; it’ll be hard. You’ll have days where you want to give up and the world just doesn’t seem to be on your side. But then you’ll get up, shake off the worries and woes of the world and keep going.

You will face challenges. You will meet your match. You will be subjected to the harsh realities of the “real world.”

But through it all, you’ll meet so many people who have stories and thoughts to share. You will succeed and achieve and make a name for yourself. You may figure out what you really want out of life, or you may just enjoy the journey.

To our graduating seniors, my heart does go out to you because of the fact that COVID-19 could cause you to not have a traditional ceremony. I feel for the parents, friends, family members and educators that may not be there to see you walk on the stage. It’s sad no matter how you look at it.

But on the bright side, there are so many days ahead that will play a significant role in defining who you are. There is a whole life to live and you may be completely shocked at what it has in store. I know I was.

Did I know what I really wanted when I graduated high school? Not at all. But the years leading up to where I am now, I wouldn’t trade those for the world.

So here’s to you, our future entrepreneurs, producers, major league athletes, news broadcasters, Broadway actors and leaders. I hope you enjoy the journey, wherever it takes you.

Danielle Puleo is a staff writer for The Coastland Times. Reach her at



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