I don’t know where my high school diploma is.

I’ve spent the past ten minutes trying to remember if I actually got a physical diploma. I must have. I graduated from high school. I walked across the stage in that ridiculous square hat. People clapped when my name was read.

It was very official.

And over the next few weeks, there will be millions of teenagers wearing their own ridiculous square hats as their names are read aloud and a bunch of strangers clap for them. They’ll receive their own degrees that they will probably misplace within the year.

Shortly before that part, they’ll hear a speech or two. A lot of these speeches will suck. The students will go in expecting a speech straight out of the movies. What they’ll get is a speech given by an 18-year-old who is probably neither a writer nor a speech giver.

Maybe they’ll get lucky.

But good or bad, the students will probably remember little to nothing of what was said during these speeches.

We had four speeches at our graduation ceremony, and I don’t remember any of them. This is especially sad because I gave one of them. All I remember is that my speech was about “the future” and it was terrible. The speech, not the future.

Even teenage-Timothy didn’t think it was great. And I was both a writer and an actor.

Today, I want to make amends for that. I want to give a proper message about the future after high school graduation. Having been out of high school for about a decade, I think I’m in a decent position to do so. That said…

A lot of people say a lot of things about high school graduation.

I saw one post on social this past week that said something like:

“Dear high school graduates, congratulations on getting through the easiest part of your lives.”

Sure, I laughed. But they’re missing the point. High school graduation isn’t really a celebration of what you’ve accomplished. If that were the case, college graduation parties would be a much bigger deal than they are.

High school graduation is a coming of age celebration. A rite of passage. What you’re really celebrating is what’s ahead of you while reflecting on what you’re leaving behind.

As a high school graduate, there’s a very good reason you should celebrate what’s ahead of you.

Upon graduating, you are more free to do anything than you ever have been or will ever be in your life.

I’m sure there’s exceptions to that, but for 90% of you, it’s true. Before this, you were tied up in school, in sports, in drama (either theatrically or just socially), in part-time jobs, and everything else that comes with grade school.

That’s over.

You’ve also spent your entire life under the management of your parents or guardians. As an 18-year-old, your parents can’t actually make you do anything anymore.

By law. Strings are cut, should you choose to cut them.

And chances are, at this age, you don’t have any debt. Hopefully. How the heck would you have debt as a teenager? If you do, get rid of that now.


You should know that at this moment, if you are a senior who just graduated from high school, you have a spectrum of possibilities before you that you will likely never see again. It’s as though you’ve been handed a blank sheet of paper and one of those ridiculously big crayon boxes that contains every color the human eye is capable of distinguishing.

On one hand, you should be cautious. That first line draw could lock you onto a path that proves very hard to undo. If you go to the wrong school, choose a bad major, take on debt or loans, go to jail, or murder someone, you will spend a lot of time fixing those situations.

Especially if you murder someone. Let’s not murder anyone.

On the other hand, you should be brave. There is so much you can do and so little to stand in your way of accomplishing it. You are unburdened, untainted.

You have the capabilities of an adult combined with the naïve-hopes and dreams of a child. That’s a powerful combination.

So do something with it. Now. With each year you let slip away, your dreams will only become harder to chase. For the next decade or two, additional responsibilities will be added upon you in a constant stream of lameness.

I’m not saying your chances for success (whatever success means to you) disappear once your teenage years are over. I’m just saying that now is the best time to start.

What are you waiting for?

Get off the internet and go make some stuff happen.

Oh, but before you leave the internet, if you’d like to know more about life after school, you can check out this book I wrote called That College Book. Despite the name, it’s not just about college. It’s really about post high-school life as a whole.

It’s only $4. Even a broke teenager can afford $4.

that college book by timothy snyder