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My advice to graduating seniors


The art, calligraphy, inspirations, and ponderings of Riana Nelson.

Riana Nelson Blog


My advice to graduating seniors

Riana Nelson

Happy June! This week, I had the honor to present a scholarship award to a high school senior, on behalf of the non-profit for which I volunteer.

Not surprisingly, I was extremely emotional and weepy at this scholarship event— luckily after I presented, thank goodness. Seeing students accept scholarships, their proud parents beaming, and the stories of how many of these scholarship and memorial funds came to be was very touching to me.

It’s POSSIBLE I was extra nostalgic because I also happened to be sitting in the exact same high school Commons where I sat as a senior fifteen years ago this June.

15 years ago I graduated high school. FIFTEEN. YEARS. AGO.

I don’t know if you’re ever really ready to face how fast time can fly, but in that moment, setting foot on the Capital High School steps, I felt like I was 18 and going to this thing as a student! So, sitting there, waiting for the event to start, I thought about what I would say to my Senior Year Self. (Back then in 2004, I was dissecting cats in my ex-boyfriend’s biology class, hanging out with my fellow super nerdy drama and choir kids— seriously the best people, I’m not kidding— and I played zero sports. I thought I was literally unable to run. Ever. Now I can. It’s great, and literally everyone can run if they try. But I digress!)

My biggest advice is the following.

If you’re feeling excited to graduate, but unsure whether or not you’re on the 'right path': this next period of your life is designed to be a selfish time. It’s not to do what your parents want from you, or what your friends say is cool, or what society places on you.

Focus on YOU and what’s going to be best for you! That might be college, getting an internship, working random jobs, not working, going into the military, being at your parents’ house, saving money, volunteering, traveling. There’s no shame in any of it.

No matter what frame of mind you’re in, put your “explore” hat on. Accept that it’s ok to not know where you’re heading, or what’s “best” for you right now. That’s WHY you’re exploring it! And exploring is FUN! Be a sponge! It’s cool if you know what the next few years holds for you. It’s ALSO EQUALLY COOL if you don’t. That’s normal.

Focus on learning what brings you joy. (I’m still working on that and I’m 33, and I fully intend to learn + practice re-learning this every day of my life!)

Try new things and see what FULFILLS yourself as an artist, and as a human being. Put your heart out there. There is simply too much turmoil and shit in the world right now to go through it UNFULFILLED as a human. The world needs YOU to do what you’re passionate about. So— find and do the things you LOVE, and don’t obsess over the things you DON’T love. Share your heart. Speak up. Be compassionate to everyone. Practice kindness towards yourself and strangers, too.

Accept that there’s always crappy or boring parts to every job/class/project.

It’s not all about money. Let me say it again: it’s not all about money.

Trust your heart. And don’t be afraid to trust others, too. You might get burned... AND YOU MIGHT NOT. Open yourself up to the possibility that everything might just work out AMAZINGLY and how it’s supposed to!

One more thing… let it be publicly known: I wish I would’ve skipped school WAY more often my senior year. Just gonna leave that right here :)

Cheers to the graduating class of 2019!

xo Riana

photo by Baim Hanif