SENIOR ISSUE OPINION: Graduation: 20 Years Later


Thomas Barnes, Guest Columnist

As a freshman at MHS in 1999, the biggest accomplishment I could think of was to earn my letterman’s jacket in a high school sport. To be honest, I had no idea what sport that would be. All I knew is that I wanted to wear that red and black jacket in the hallways of this school.

I earned my first letter my sophomore year in track and field. Goal completed. Following that feat, my next goal was to graduate high school and attend Purdue University to become an aerospace engineer.

I graduated high school, but something else had changed. I checked one box with my graduation but then chose a new box to check. My strengths as a student came from my ability to help others, and I found more accomplishment in that than in Calculus or AP Physics. So, it became clear that I needed to change my goal of over five years, and I decided to become a teacher—an English teacher at that. I then told myself I would get a job anywhere but Northwest Indiana. I wanted to live anywhere else!

Then I met the most important person in my life, the object of every love song I had ever heard. My life with her became my new goal. I took a job at a familiar place, MHS, and another goal became helping my students become better writers, thinkers and people. Looking back, I don’t think I could count how many goals I have both accomplished and missed.

To the class of 2023, my message is this: be brave and explore. When I graduated high school in 2003, I thought I knew exactly where my life would go; my goals were set. I didn’t know you. I didn’t know Mrs. Barnes. But how thankful I am that I do today! You have so much life ahead of you, so many discoveries and so many goals to achieve and change. Allow each of those to come to you, and savor each one. Life will not be easy. People and events will hurt you. Loss and struggle will abound. So will triumph and joy. The road of life is paved by experiences, both good and bad. Regardless, there is one true currency for your whole trip: the impact you have on others’ lives. Goals are not just about money or success; they are about the difference you make on this Earth. Set goals and do all you can to achieve them, but always know that new goals and accomplishments are waiting just around the corner. What will you accomplish in the next 20 years?