Last week I watched my granddaughter graduate from high school. My wife and I sat in the hot sun with her parents and other family members and cheered loudly as we watched her walk across the stage. 

She was the recipient of so many honors and awards that I could not help feeling very proud. At the same time, I also found myself feeling very old. The years have passed by so fast. I still find it hard to believe that little girl will be entering college this fall.

As she sat there with her classmates, I found myself wondering what the future held for them, and where the road of life would take them. Some will head for college, others will seek employment, some will go into the military, but each one has dreams they hope to fulfill. 

I remember sitting on the stage with my classmates 46 years ago. We were very excited about all of the possibilities before us. We were also a little scared as we prepared to leave our safe and familiar world to chase our dreams. 

Unfortunately, the road of life often contains many detours. 

After graduation, I enrolled in a vocational-technical school to study electronics. I planned to complete the two-year course and then return home to work in my step-dad’s TV repair shop.  

But I soon found myself heading down an unexpected road. Low-cost imported electronic items were sweeping the nation. Our customers began to replace their malfunctioning equipment instead of having it repaired.  As business dropped off, we were forced to close the shop, and seek other employment. 

Leaving high school with a plan for my life and having it crumble at my feet was very discouraging. I found myself on a road leading to places I had no desire to go. I felt lost, discouraged and confused. I felt doomed to follow roads that had no connection to anyplace I wanted to be. In my attempts to get back on track, I occasionally took exits that common sense told me to avoid. Those roads usually led to more difficulties.

I began to look for new directions, and new dreams to pursue. But it seemed that every path I tried to follow led to a dead end. I spent the next two decades working in an industry that I would have never chosen as a career path.  

But sometimes the hand of providence also directs our travels. I didn’t understand it at the time, but as I look back I can see that all of those twists and turns had a purpose. Each road I had traveled, every detour, all of the events that seemed so meaningless, had prepared me for a destination far superior to the one I originally intended. 

Through those experiences, I have learned many valuable lessons. Sometimes no matter how bleak and hopeless a situation may appear, we just have to shift into 4WD and keep going. That ugly rugged hill might just have a beautiful valley on the other side. If we give up, we’ll never find it.

To my granddaughter and all of the 2019 graduates, I congratulate you and offer this advice. The road of life can be confusing and difficult to navigate at times. But no matter what it brings, don’t allow the roadblocks, potholes or detours to discourage you, defeat you or rob you of your dreams. 

It’s just one more challenge to meet, and you can do it. Each obstacle you encounter and overcome will make you a little stronger and a lot wiser. You can make it. You may encounter a few detours, or have to change a few flat tires, but keep going forward and you’ll get there. 

Now it’s time to get the car out of the garage, check the oil, fill the tank with gas, and get out there on the highway to pursue your dreams. You have an amazing journey ahead of you, enjoy the trip and make the most of every mile.

CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or reporter@ctnewsonline.com.

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