With graduation season upon us, it’s a great time to discuss a subject which doesn’t often get discussed. We all know that if Wheeling is to thrive, it needs to attract and keep lots of able and willing people who are in a position to contribute to the community. The shadowy secret in the matter is that these people don’t just happen by chance- each is wrought, one life decision at a time, from the raw material of a high school graduate. With that in mind, I have a plea to our local graduates- don’t screw up, we need you! To help you in this mission, I’ve put together some guidelines which I believe, if followed closely, will give you a good chance of becoming the kind of person that the Ohio Valley needs you to be.

Stay Off Drugs
I’m not going to tell you to never ever take any kind of drug. But you’ll never make it to even consider any of my other suggestions if you’re in the grasp of some sort of habit, including alcohol. Or if you’re dead. So use your graduation as an opportunity to set some firm limits for yourself. Things like: never get high on weekdays, never put a needle in your arm, never buy drugs with money you don’t have. Err on the side of caution, and seek help if you need it. We don’t need any more junkies.

Get Educated
Education is power. Power to decide things like where you live and work, and how much money you make. Use the opportunities you have now to learn the things you’ll need to be able to do what you want to do in life. I’m not just talking about college degrees, either. Find something you like and learn to do it well, whether it’s chemistry, music, brewing, welding, unicycling, or something weird.

I think there’s a strong human instinct to try to get ahead by bringing others down. Certainly Wheeling has seen a lot of that in the last half-century, as established businesses fought for their slice of an ever-dwindling pie. But we need to get beyond that now. A growing city has room for everyone to reap rewards, and the way to achieve that growth is to put aside quarrels and focus on the whole. In practice I find that the key here is communication- talk with those who are affected by actions you take. Let them know your goals, and take their concerns to heart. Written communication is too easy to misinterpret- phone calls or in-person meetings are usually best.

Move Away
This may sound crazy, but I think the best way to help Wheeling is to move away from Wheeling. At least for a while. Make a plan to come back, even. But get out there and see the country, if not the world. Go live in one of these juggernauts that people gush about, like Austin, Tx. See what’s right and what’s wrong there. Spend a few months in somewhere like Detroit and compare notes on the challenges both cities face. Get a job where you have to ride the subway to work. After you’ve been away for a while, come back in the spring for a graduation or a wedding (not next spring, though- locust infestation!). Everything will seem a little sweeter here, and you’ll start to think about how you can use that education you obtained by avoiding drugs to move back and start collaborating on Wheeling’s rebirth.

One Response

  1. greg caruth

    The “Move Away” advice reminds me that in Britain, between high school (they call it College) and Uni (university), students take several weeks or months in what is called ”gap year”–a time to travel and be independent and see the world. I have friends whose one son traveled through Asia and South America, and the other son is visiting us this summer because he loves the idea of the US. We are in such a rush to send our kids directly into college here that there is little time to learn and mature. The problem with moving away AFTER college–and the draft helped me do that in the 70s–is that once you are gone, you get a job, find a place away from Wheeling, and life takes over, and Wheeling becomes a place to visit. Maybe the Brits have an idea we can learn to adopt–a ”gap year” where we find out what we’re made of, off the sofa, away from the video games, without mom’s cooking. When I went to College, there were some guys who were a few years older, some had been in the Service, or had worked a while. They were so much more mature, made good grades, and had gotten the nonsense out of their system.

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