The Lesson I Learned on Graduation Day

The Lesson I Learned on Graduation Day

I gained more than just my diploma on graduation day.

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Each day we encounter experiences that shape who we are. Whether they are for good or bad, these are lessons that ultimately lead our next decision in life. This year, my graduation day taught me one of the most valuable lessons I've learned, providing me with a forward-looking attitude as I moved through 2018 and now onto 2019.

On June 1st, 2018, I stood alongside nearly 660 of my classmates anxiously waiting to turn our tassels. With nothing else to do, I fidgeted with my gown for nearly 2 hours before finally getting the chance to walk across that stage. After my 5 seconds of fame, I returned to my seat with the same tiresome attitude.

"Can this be over already?"

I heard the crowd of parents mumble beside me. As the ceremony continued, the crowd anxiously grew louder. Students' last names from "M" onward were nearly muted out by the disturbing amount of side conversation that echoed the room. Graduation ceremonies are often deemed as unnecessarily long, but for the kid with the last name "Zimmerman", it feels even longer. Although I was sure to make the most of my walk across the stage, I failed to recognize the importance of all the other special moments that composed the ceremony.

Most parents anxiously await their child's name to be called, yet forget to give the recognition to everyone else who succeeded alongside them. The student's name who was called 3 people before your child may have been a first generation college student in their family, the 655th name to be called may have experienced a tragedy during the year, yet still excelled to receive their diploma, and the child's name who could not be heard because your side conversation, may have been going on to serve in our armed forces.

It was not until I watched the heartfelt graduation ceremony of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that I realized I had taken graduation day for granted. The parents who attended my ceremony were lucky to watch their children obtain their own diploma, the teachers who volunteered their time to organize the event were lucky to be alongside all of their colleagues, and the students who sat with empty chairs next to them were lucky that the non-attending students had the option of being there. While it is important to embrace our moment, it is just important to recognize that it is someone else's moment too. Too often we centralize significant events around ourselves, but if graduation day taught me anything, it was the importance of embracing a moment with everyone that you are sharing it with.

Rather than waiting for January 1st to loop around to start "seizing every moment", I decided to start right then and there. From that day forward, I made sure to congratulate all my friends who earned their diploma. I attended graduation parties nearly every other day for two weeks but treated each one with the same significance as my own. It shouldn't have taken me regretting my own graduation day to alter my mentality, but unfortunately, it did. The important thing is that I now recognize the importance of acknowledging others' achievements just as much as myself. While every day may not be the brightest or the most fulfilled to me, someone out there had the best day of their life, and if I was lucky enough to watch the sun rise and set, then I'd say I had a pretty darn good day as well.

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.
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When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try out or audition to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

At a basketball tryout, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential castmember will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little payoff for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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What Starting A Business As A High Schooler Taught Me

It's never too early to start.

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Once upon a time, it was junior year. I was spending my days drowning in AP English homework, studying for the ACT, and trying to get involved in as many extracurriculars as one could. All everyone talked about was where you were visiting, where you were applying, and what you wanted to study. And frankly, I was sick of it. I was sick of planning for my future and waiting around to make a difference in the world. I wanted it all to happen now.

Around this time, I had recently noticed a trend where young girls, like me, were up and coming businesswomen. Whether it was designing trendy college apparel, selling jewelry, or even people bedazzling champagne bottles, social media was filled with all kinds of businesses. I even watched several of my friends start successful businesses. I was fascinated and wanted to hop on the trend. If these people could do it, why couldn't I?

So after months of developing ideas, and even more so BEGGING my mom, Lauryn Taylor Designs was formed, where I created custom-made hand-drawn gifts for various colleges, camps, and special occasions. My products ranged from shoes to pillows to wooden letters to canvases. Truthfully, I love every second of making my products and find the process very therapeutic. And while I am no longer really running my business, it has still taught me so many valuable lessons over the last two years that I am very thankful for.

Sometimes things don't go as planned.

About two months into my business, I had a major shift. I started out solely selling my products on redbubble.com, but was frustrated with the lack of profit, and frankly, the lack of work I was doing. My mom was scrolling through social media and stumbled upon someone who had drawn on a pillow with markers. She showed me the item and said, "Lauryn, why can't you do this?" I drew my first pillow and that's when my business took off and I began expanding my product line. I didn't expect that I would end up down a path like that, but without it, I wouldn't have been so successful.

You may discover something about yourself you didn't even know.

If you were to tell me years ago that I would've run a business revolved around art and design, I probably would've laughed in your face. I would never, in a million years, describe myself as artistic—in fact, I was self-conscious about it. I always had good handwriting, but when it came to drawing, I sucked. But when I began making my products, it was like discovering a hidden talent I never knew I had. I had to work at my artistic abilities and I know that I have grown from it. My art teachers never picked my work for examples and I was never once in an art show, but look at me now.

Not everyone you work with is going to be easy.

Oh boy. If I could sit through and name all of the annoying customers that asked me the stupidest questions of things that were flat out stated on my website, we'd be here forever. I had to work with people who didn't understand just how long it took me to make my products or what exactly they entailed. I was fortunate to have many loyal and supportive customers, but I did have experience with ones who called me mean names and insulted my work. It was definitely something I wasn't prepared for, yet running a business isn't always going to be sunshine and rainbows. Unfortunately, I had to learn that the hard way.

Your schedule is going to fluctuate, so you have to plan your time accordingly.

Going to school full time, participating in extracurriculars, applying to colleges, and then on top of that owning a business, you'd probably think I'm crazy. There were definitely times I was overwhelmed with the amount of work I had to do, especially at the peak times of my business. You may have to miss out on some times spent with family and friends, but if you love what you do, adjusting your schedule and doing the work is all worth it.

Patience is key.

My success did not happen overnight. In fact, I still believe that I didn't get exactly where I wanted to. When I first started, I remember sitting for hours trying to follow as many people as possible through social media and spending a lot of time, effort, and money enhancing my website and marketing platforms in hopes that I would become the next up and coming entrepreneur. Running a business requires a lot of waiting around, but the delay of gratification will be worthwhile and you'll feel a lot more proud of your hard work.

As a high schooler, you're probably not going to be taken seriously.

This may have been the most frustrating thing I have ever felt. I remember doing two different local charity shows and the intimidation I felt setting up my small booth next to adults who had likely been running their businesses for years and years and had a lot more experience than I did. It hurt to get the cold shoulder from patrons walking past my table, overlooking the seventeen-year-old girl, probably because no one thought she would be good enough or had enough background. Feeling like you are not been seen to your fullest potential is the absolute worst.

Just because you like something doesn't mean it has to become your entire life.

I've gotten a lot of questions from people asking me why I'm not studying business or graphic design. As much as I loved running my business and would love to continue to do it in the future, it is not something that I can see myself doing for the rest of my life nor something I want to support my income and future. I wrote an article recently about my passion for psychology and from my coursework and experience, I know that I want to use this knowledge to help make a difference in this world. But, if you have an idea of how to combine the two, let me know.

Don't compare yourself to others—progress happens on your own time.

One of the reasons that I was so interested to start my business and knew it had the potential to be something great was because some of my own friends had done the same. However, that came with a lot of me saying, "well so-and-so has more followers" or "they're making more money than me." The list goes on and on. But what I did realize is that you can't measure success. Everyone has their own unique struggles to make it in this world.

It's more than just a monetary reward.

Okay, I'll admit, the money is pretty nice. But skills such as marketing, communication, art, and public relations that I gained from this direct experience is something unmatched from what you will learn in the classroom. And more importantly, I learned the importance of hard work, perseverance, and what it means to truly be passionate about something.

Although LTD has unfortunately died down, I am still so grateful for my experiences and wouldn't trade it for the world. Running a business as a high schooler is not easy, but it has provided me many valuable lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I urge every single one of you to find something that you love and believe in and make something out of it—it's never too early to start.

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