You made it! Now what?

A Letter To New High School Grads

Well, you finally made it!

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To all the new high school graduates:

Congratulations! You finally made it! You've worked hard to make it here and are now entering true adulthood. Some of you will be going away to college in the fall, some of you will go to work straight away, and some will take a gap year or two to travel and mature before deciding what to do with your lives. All of these are perfectly good options— as long as you are doing what you love!

To those of you going to work after graduation, it's time to work hard! High school has given you the necessary knowledge to go into the workforce, so get in there and work your ass off! Make sure you are doing something you love because if you love your work, you never work a day in your life! Put your mind to it and put your grind to it, and you'll be successful no matter what you do!

To the grads who are taking a gap year to travel and grow, enjoy the time you take to find out who you truly are! Travel is the best way to test yourself and find out where you excel and what you need to work at. You will also learn about new people, cultures, foods, and languages if you're traveling abroad, which is another great way to broaden your horizons and help you discover what it is you want to do once you go to college (if you decide to go to college).

And to those who are headed to college in the fall, get ready, because you're about to enter a world like no other, and start the best four years of your life! Now, I may be a bit biased because I go to the best school ever, (Go Nittany Lions!) but for everyone I have ever spoken to, college has been the most enjoyable time in their lives. It will be where you make friends that last a lifetime, take classes where you will learn how to work in the field you plan to enter once you graduate, and make connections that will get you jobs and internships in those fields.

Finally, to all the graduates reading, enjoy this summer. Enjoy it like it's your last summer ever. Travel, spend time with your friends, go to concerts and festivals, see new things, and take hundreds of photographs. Don't get too lazy, even though it's so easy to when you finally have no responsibilities!

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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8 Reasons Why California Is “The Place To Be”

Many people ask me why I left such an amazing place, and I still don't have an answer.

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I've vacationed in California all my life. I've traveled up the coast and through the deserts and mountains of the Golden State. I've lived there for five years and attended college at a UC (University of California). I am convinced that California is "the place to be", and here's why:

1. The coastline is absolutely breathtaking.

Laguna Beach, CA.

Kathryn Kaloroumakis

The turquoise water crashing into the intricately chiseled cliffs is nature at its finest. Hop on Pacific Coast Highway to drive along 840 miles of pure beauty.

2. The weather.

You don't even have to check the forecast in California to know that it is sunny and seventy degrees.

3. Hollywood.

Hollywood, CA

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Being in Hollywood is like being in a movie - spot celebrities roaming the area, gaze upon the amazing mansions that fill the hills, and tour iconic movie sets and studios.

4. The gourmet Mexican food.

Roberto's Tacos, CA

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Whether you are dining in at a classy restaurant on the water, getting take out Mexican from a little shack in the desert, or grabbing a taco from a food truck on the beach, you can't go wrong with the Mexican food.

5. The various universities all across the state.

University of California, San Diego

Kathryn Kaloroumakis

Whether you want to study in a beach town, the desert, or the redwood forest, there is a home for you. The state holds 264 colleges and universities for students to choose from.

6. The endless amount of public trails and parks.

California welcomes people to explore the great outdoors - whether you are roaming through the Redwood Forest, hiking to the Hollywood Sign, walking the trails at Big Bear Mountain, or running the trail to the Golden Gate Bridge, there is always another sight to see in California.

7. The various types of terrain.

Mammoth, CA

Kathryn Kaloroumakis

Only in California can you surf in the morning and skii in the afternoon. The desert, the forest, the beach, the mountains, and more - all exist in California.

8. Home to “The Happiest Place on Earth”.

Paradise Pier, Disney's California Adventure

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There is never a dull moment hanging with Mickey Mouse at Disneyland or hopping from ride to ride at California Adventure.

Many people ask me why I left such an amazing place, and I still don't have an answer. California is the place to be.

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