Graduates, if you wouldn't mind putting down your smartphones (maybe just shut them off), we'd like to share a few thoughts about that next big step in your life.
But what we'd like to say is this: Don't worry so much about that next step. Try to appreciate where you're at right now, in this moment.
You belong to the generation labeled as millennial or maybe post-millennial if you're graduating high school. You live and breathe technology. It has become in many ways an extension of you.
Many of your elders, those in their 40s and 50s, find your technology dependence jarring. They never carried in their pockets 24/7 devices capable of reaching anyone, anywhere at any time. They relied on their parents' landlines to call friends.
In some ways, technology has empowered you. In other ways, technology has overpowered you.
How many of you have either received or sent a text while driving? And how many of you thought, or still think, it's no big deal? Technology has become so ubiquitous that many of you struggle to detach yourselves from it, even when not doing so creates a danger for yourselves and others.
But the real danger is not a physical one. It's a metaphysical one.
When you constantly check your phones to get updates, you're living in the next moment. You live for that next text, Facebook post or tweet, and, meanwhile, your head is down, staring at that screen.
Be the one to turn off your phone. Be that person who lives in the moment. Many graduation messages are about striving to reach your career goals and never giving up on your dreams. These things are important, but you have to be attentive of the journey on your way to your dreams.
Our message is about returning to the basics. When you're walking through a building or to your car, keep your head up. Make eye contact with the person crossing your path and smile. Notice the kids playing on the neighbor's swing set or walking a dog.
Study the plane flying above and ask your little brother, sister or cousin what type it is. And if they don't know, don't look it up on Google and don't snap a photo of it with your phone. Sit down with that little one and draw the plane based on your memories of it. Talk about that plane: What color was it? Did it have one propeller or two? Maybe ask an aunt or uncle to get their opinion.
Make the moment interpersonal.
If you decide to have children, make a promise to yourself to spend time with them. And we don't mean spending time in proximity. We mean engaging them, cuddling them and giving them your complete_not intermittent_attention.
There was a time not long ago when much of what we're saying didn't need to be said. It was assumed most of our interactions with each other would be face-to-face.
One of the great ironies of today's technological world is that we have the tools to communicate faster than ever, and yet many of us have become horrible communicators.
Much of the information we're absorbing every day is essentially useless. It often doesn't make us better people. It makes us a distracted people.
But technology doesn't have to be our master. You can become the masters of technology, aware of its power and how it affects you.
Graduates, you can dare to live in the moment.
This editorial appeared in the May 14 edition of the The Gazette of Janesville, Wisconsin.