More than 6,000 Lee County students will pass the single most important milestone in their young lives this weekend, high school graduation.
It's a momentous occasion, both joyous and a little bit frightening as childhood is officially left behind.
For this group of graduates, as for the last few classes before them, it's also a stride into adulthood in uncertain times.
While the economy is improving, and the job market is a tad brighter, today's alumni are likely to have to work a little harder, a little longer and a whole lot smarter than some of us had to in the not-too-distant past.
That's not a negative, it's simply a word to the wise.
Those entering or preparing for today's real world economy face two things: More competition and a narrowing of options as some formerly choice career paths have been changed - or eliminated forever - by technology.
Our best advice for the Class of 2012? It's two sides of the same coin:
- Absolutely, do what you love so you will love what you do.
But temper your choice with both research and reality. Cutting-edge digital equipment and superb Photoshop skills likely would be Ansel Adams' tools of choice today; Southwest Florida's own Clyde Butcher aside, few shoot film anymore.
- And yes, invest in education but invest wisely. Liberal arts are wonderful and learning unto itself is never wasted nor a waste of time, but neither is the acquisition of a marketable skill set to be eschewed. Invest in what you want to do - and select the path that will get you there.
This is not new advice by the way, it's advice that transcends the economic cycle.
Meanwhile, best wishes to the Class of 2012. Any lingering economic doom-and-gloom aside, the future does look bright.
May the road ahead be paved with nothing but success.
- Breeze editorial