Hundreds of Rapid City Central and Stevens students will graduate Sunday afternoon.
I've always wanted to deliver a commencement address, but I'll never be famous enough - for the right reasons - to be chosen, so this column may be as close as I'll ever get.
I love telling the story of skipping my own college commencement. A few years before, President George H.W. Bush spoke at Oklahoma State University's ceremony.
When I graduated, they had Jack Anderson, famous Nixon-era syndicated newspaper columnist. Who would want to listen to a newspaper guy give a speech? The irony of me taking a job at my hometown newspaper, becoming an editor six months later and running Anderson's columns until he finally retired is really on brand for me.
You don't get all of these gray hairs without learning some lessons so I hoped to be able to share some hard-earned wisdom with this year's graduates.
The best advice I can give anyone is never to do anything because you should. You should brush your teeth and change the oil in your car on schedule. But don't let "should" make other decisions for you.
One example was how I initially chose a major in college. I was a mechanical engineering major. I hated it. I made good grades. It just didn't bring me any joy. I chose that major because I should. I was a National Merit Scholar and missed only one question on the math portion of the ACT. I thought I should be an engineering major because I had an aptitude for math and science. It was a mistake that I was able to overcome after changing my major after five semesters.
Don't let the pressure of everyone else seeming to know what they want and having it all together pressure you to pretend you do.
The only thing worse than a miserable failure is a miserable success.
At least it's easy to leave failures behind. Having success because you have the ability to do something might keep you from chasing a dream that would bring both success and happiness.
If I had stayed the course and become an engineer, I would have made a lot more money in the early part of my career than I did as a Political Science and Economics major who lost a job working for a Congressman who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate.
I also would never have fallen backward into journalism and a job at my hometown newspaper.
That happy accident has led to 27 years of ups and downs, wins and losses, tons of work and not one second of regret or boredom.
Albert Einstein is credited with saying insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. That's good, but I prefer, "To get something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done."
I never wanted to work in journalism. Even though my college apartment had the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Stillwater News-Press, Tulsa World, the Daily O'Collegian on the coffee table at any time, I was a reader. I never considered writing for one of them or being an editor.
Opportunity knocked and I answered and I've enjoyed almost every crazy moment after. I've faced death threats and been called every name in the book. I've also won more than 100 awards and made even more friends.
I didn't do any of this because I had my act together when I graduated from high school or even college. All of my success came from working hard and being ready to take a few leaps of faith. I took a job in Kansas without ever visiting the city where I would soon live for seven years.
That job led to me having to close a newspaper for our parent company, but I also had the chance to open a newspaper for that company in a city that had just lost theirs. One week after I opened that newspaper, my family flew to Addis Ababa and adopted a little boy from Ethiopia. He just turned 14.
Like I said, not one second of boredom.
It isn't selfish or wrong to do what makes you happy. Doing something because you should or to satisfy someone else is a great way to become a miserable success.
So brush your teeth and change your oil, but never chase anyone else's dream or do anything because it feels like you should.
You have been given the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If you're reading this, you have life. As an American, you have liberty. But happiness has to be pursued.
That's a good reminder for people graduating this spring and for those of us who graduated a long time ago. If you want it, go get it.
And when you find your happiness, remember to share as much as you can with those who are still pursuing theirs.
Kent Bush is the editor of the Rapid City Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org