Tuesday, June 06, 2000

Grads get real-world advice

Readers tell us what they wish someone had told them before they took on the real world

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        What do you wish you'd known when you went out into the real world?

        Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan, a broadcast journalist, and wife of movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger answered that question in her new book. Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Went Out into the Real World (WarnerBooks, $19.95) was based on a 1998 commencement address she gave at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass.

        With graduation season upon us, we posed the question to readers.

        Here is a sampling of their responses.

        Things I wish someone had told me:

        1. Change is good and it will not kill you.

        2. God is not impressed by degrees, trophies, or wealth.

        3. It's all right to admit you're wrong.

        4. Get over yourself and keep going.

        5. Listen closely to people with different points of view.

        6. Pleasure is fleeting. So is pain.

        7. Don't ever assume you can take friendship for granted.

        8. You cannot fight for peace and justice; you can only be peaceful and just.

        9. Nothing is harder to retrieve than a harsh word or a broken promise.

        10.Love is the most precious thing in this world, don't squander it.

        -- Patrick Ewing, 48, College Hill, Aiken High '69

        Here are a few things I wish I had known before going out unto the world:

        ''Pinpoint your passion,'' then get a real job.

        Balance your checkbook monthly.

        Wait 24 hours before making a major purchase.

        If I had known these earlier, I would be king by now!

        -- Peter Allen, 44, Covington, Northern Kentucky University

        As a recent Miami University grad, I actually got Maria Shriver's book as a gift. The biggest thing that I wish someone had told me before I ventured out into the ''real world'' was that paying bills is no fun and that Uncle Sam really does get the best of you.

        -- Jen Kirby, 21, Hyde Park, Miami University '00

        I wish I'd known not to waste time and energy envying other people.

        I grew up in the '50s and '60s, on Mickey Mouse Club, movie magazines and beach movies. I was envious of all the glamorous stars. I started basing what I wanted to be on what other people were. In high school and college, I wanted to be like the most popular, best-looking, smartest kids. After college, as my friends married, I was interested in who had the fanciest wedding, the nicest first home, the sportiest car, the prestigious job, the sweetest baby. At times, yes, I was envious.

        Somewhere in my early adult years, it suddenly hit me that there wasn't anybody else I'd rather be than me. It wasn't so much

        realizing that my life was perfect but that nobody's was. As teen idols fell prey to illness, deaths of loved ones and the inevitable fall from stardom, I noticed that my peers in the “real” world were all pretty much experiencing both good and bad in their lives, too.

        Sandra Dee and Bobby Darrin didn't live happily ever after, and Annette Funicello, whom I most wanted to be, has had to face a devastating illness. And the woman who got to marry Prince Charles, my first crush, would gladly have traded him for a guy like the one I ended up with.

        So, I' m glad to say I gave up envy cold turkey. It was so freeing!

        I'd like those graduating this year, including my own two daughters, to each embrace and appreciate their life as the unique, very personal, adventure it will be.

        Joan Fox, 52, Liberty Township, Miami University '70

        It's real easy to get into credit card debt, but so hard to get out. When you head into the “real world,” you need so much — work clothes, housing, furniture, transportation, insurance, food, etc.

        Entry level salaries don't often stretch far enough to cover all that (plus a little entertainment once in a while), and credit card offers are so numerous and tempting. Budgeting, saving, and delayed gratification are short term pain compared to paying off big credit card debt.

        Along the same lines, participate in a 401-K or retirement plan as soon as you are eligible.

        Kim Ostendorf, 34, Winton Place, Michigan State University '88

        I wish someone had told me that life is an ever-changing process and there is never that “apex” of arriving. When I was younger I use to think I will be happy when I get this job, this husband or that career and than I can rest. I feel that you never quite arrive so you need to do things to make yourself happy. Keep yourself engaged in life along the way because it will move on without you.

        — Joyce Kaufman Miller, 49, Mount Lookout, Medical University of South Carolina '79

        Some advice that was always implied but perhaps not emphasized enough: Remember the spiritual dimension of “the real world.” Develop your inner resources so that if your other worlds start to crumble, you can tap into an inner reservoir of strength that will allow you not only to survive but to thrive.

        — Elizabeth Bookser Barkley, 52, Anderson Township, University of Cincinnati '98

        I don't think it would have mattered if anyone would have told me, I think some lessons are best remembered when you learn them first hand. But, soon after I left for college I learned that:

        1. Family is still No. 1.

        2. Not everyone you meet is your friend.

        I am currently preparing a graduation speech as I am the commencement speaker at my alma mater, Western Reserve High School - from which I graduated in 1974.

        — John Mocker, 43, Union, Western Reserve University '74

        I wish someone educated me about the stock market and the financial world in general.

        My mother and father were great parents but they were busy working and trying to house and feed three children, they weren't thinking about annuities, 401-Ks, etc.

        But in the '60s (when I graduated high school), the general public was not exposed to the financial world as it is today (TV, talk radio, magazines, etc.). It would have been great to be more savvy about money BEFORE reaching my 50s. I try to instill what I've learned with younger members of my family. Do they listen? Who knows.

        — Sandy Brennan, 52, Colerain Township, Our Lady of Angels '65

        I have always felt that the best piece of advice I received growing up was: “How smart you are is directly proportional to where on the earth you happen to be standing.”

        — Michael S. Howitt, 52, Pierce Township, Wagner College, New York, '70

        I wish someone had told me about hard choices — when you would say no when you wanted to say yes, i.e. to the promotion you knew was a great opportunity, but didn't fit into your marriage and/or family life.

        I left full-time work for the lesser-respected, less secure and definitely lower paying flex-time work when my daughter was 12 months old. It killed me to side-step in my career, but I knew it was the right choice.

        I sent a letter to my clients with this quote which says it all ... “There comes a time when having it all means giving more than you have to give.”

        The author is unknown, but I lived it then and I live it now daily. I am the single-parent of 2 girls, ages 10 and 12.

        Lori Farmer, 38, Covington, Miami University '83

I had wonderful parents, teachers and role models when I was growing up. Unfortunately, I didn't realize this until I was an adult. I received excellent advice throughout my life; some of which I used; most of which I ignored. Why? Because I did not see it's sense or usefulness OR I flat out felt it was wrong. After all, when I was 20, I knew everything.

        I now know that it probably drove the people that cared about me crazy.

        There is nothing like having kids of your own in order to understand how your parents feel. My four children, ages 14 through 20, echo all the frustrations I felt in that time period, and even though I, along with others, preach to them that good advice we received throughout life, it just doesn't stick, not until they go through an ordeal that drives the point home.

        In summary, we humans are an experiential lot. There is nothing like experiencing something to drive a point home. It's boils down to the “Ah hah!” experiences we all have. That is what turns the words and sentences into advice. So, preach away. In the end we'll hear what we want to hear.

        — Gene Haas, 40, Liberty Township, Tennessee Technical University

        Three things:

        1. Try to live within your income.

        2. Don't be afraid of hard work, it will get you where you want to go.

        3. Start a retirement or insurance plan as soon as it is possible.

        — Betty J. Marsh, 72, Loveland, Hamilton High '46

        I finished college and “dabbled” at different jobs for two years. I traveled through Europe. At age 24, I accepted a position that was just right for me.

        I wish someone had told me it's okay to try out different jobs. It's okay to postpone marriage. It's okay to enjoy being single. It's okay to pursue your dreams as long as they are not illegal, immoral, or harmful.

        It's also OK to still have dreams at 51 and to pursue them with energy and excitement.

        — Marlene Morris, 51, Blue Ash, Ohio University '71

        The best piece of advice I ever received was from my mother the day before I started my first job in the real world.

        “Nobody is indispensable, especially you.”

        I think most high school and college graduates think that their status in school will automatically transfer to life. It doesn't happen that way. You have to earn people's trust and respect. It's one of the hardest jobs you will ever do because there are others out there just as dedicated, just as qualified. You have to give your employer a reason for letting you come back to work the next day. In the end, even the CEO can be fired so why not you?

        — Valerie Boles, 28, Bridgetown, Oshkosh West High School '90

        I believe all students should be able to do the following before being issued a diploma:

        1) Balance a check book.

        2) Change a flat tire.

        3) Drive a standard shift car.

        4) Pass a test on everything they learned in kindergarten.

        — Stuart Hodesh, 57, Springfield Township, Woodward High '60

        I wish I had belived my parents when they said, “Complete your studies first. It will enhance your enjoyment of your playtime.”

        — Frances Hutcherson, 72, Sycamore Township, University of Arkansas, Little Rock


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