Dear Graduates:

Tis the season for commencement ceremonies, a time when many of you will dress in polyester robes, sit under the hot sun or hot lights, and listen to some rambling words that, when they were being written at least, had a sense of wisdom underlying them.

And although you may feel less than inclined to do so, we would beg your patience for just a few more minutes so that we can offer some words of experience, if not wisdom, should you be inclined to indulge your elders just one more time. In this case, the advice can be boiled down to one word:

Leave.

You read that right. Get out. Go away. Scram.

Please do not interpret this as some sort of angry response to your teenage years. Right now you may feel as though you know everything and that the adults in your life know absolutely nothing. Understand that this is normal. Although nature has generally endowed both adults and children with a short fuse when it comes to patience during the teenage years – specifically the later teen years – this is a healthy design, making it easier for both you and us to say goodbye.

Because that goodbye is definitely coming. Perhaps not today or tomorrow, or even a year or two from now. But make no mistake: The time is definitely nigh for you to strike out on your own, follow your own path, and make your way in the world.

Many of us who have already done this remember the mixture of both fear and excitement, sometimes in rapidly shifting and disproportionate measures, as we began our own journeys out from under the roofs of our parents or guardians. It wasn’t always easy then, and it sure is not easy now, but it is a necessary component of becoming the person you were meant to be.

Just who that person is may not become readily apparent for a while. As a matter of fact, some of us spend our entire lives discovering, rediscovering, and eventually revising who we are and what our role in this world truly is. And although you may think you have a pretty good idea of who you are and what you want right now, trust your elders in this: That’s almost certainly going to change, and very possibly, more than once.

So what does all this have to do with leaving? Well, the only way to discover your true self is to do so from the vantage point of being free to make your own decisions. For many of us, that means no longer being encumbered by the people we have grown up with. Don’t worry; your family will always be your family, and true friends have a way of remaining true long after friends of the moment or friends of proximity have faded from view. But this next stage you must face alone.

In truth, this does not involve knowing friends or family any more or less; it involves getting to know you. Testing out who you are as well as who you will be means taking some risks and stretching your metaphorical wings a bit. Staying in the same place makes that a challenge because it is too easy to continue following the same old habits, hanging out with the same friends, falling into a "comfortable" zone.

So use the example of those who have stepped away from being comfortable and heed the warning of those of us who have not: Step away from this little sandbar, even if for just a little while, and take a look at what the rest of the world has to offer. You will doubtlessly encounter things and people that will upset you as well as those that you will find fascinating. Take it all in and stay open to new experiences and ways of thinking. Keeping an open mind will serve you well. And once you have experienced at least part of the world beyond Cape Cod, come back. We’ll be waiting for you and looking forward to hearing all you have learned.