Karen Osborne

Karen Osborne

I’ve been writing for the “Coming of Age” column since I graduated college in 2002. That’s a lot of words. The problem with time is that it passes in the blink of an eye: One moment you’re crossing the stage at graduation with your cap and gown and the next you’re wondering why the past 14 years went by in what feels like five seconds.

Sometimes, it feels unreal to say that it has been 20 years since I sat in homeroom or sat up entirely too late editing “The Warrior,” our high school newspaper. It all feels as if it happened 10 minutes ago.

The problem with time is that it marches on and there’s nothing you can do about it. Time carries you along even if you’re tired, out of breath or don’t want to go. Modern life is blessed with an abundance of choices, except for this one in particular: We’re all going to get older. That also means that we’re all going to become different and we are all going to change.

But there a few things that will remain the same and there are quite a few lessons I learned during my time writing for “Coming of Age.”

Here’s a list of what I’ve learned: Be kind to one another and to yourself. Don’t bully others (in the classroom or in the office). Remember that everyone, no matter how prickly or different, is just like you. Treat everyone how you would like to be treated. When people force you to choose a side, and they will, don’t bully others. If you are kind to yourself, others will be kind to you.

I’ve also learned to chase happiness — for others. Our society talks a lot about the pursuit of happiness but forgets to tell us that you don’t always find it in the things you do solely for yourself. You find it in the way you help others have fantastic, happy lives. Happiness is catching. Spread it around!

Chase real success, not fake success. Real success looks very different than what the world would have you believe. Fast cars, big mansions, sexy jobs, diamonds and high regard — some people who “have it all” still find themselves desperately wanting more. True success can’t be bought. Only you can look inside yourself and to God and define what success means.

You will always keep learning and you should always keep learning. Lessons don’t stop the day you leave the classroom. They’re everywhere. I’ve learned countless things from my bosses, editors, the homeless people outside of the library, a guy at the Dairy Queen, my niece and my nephew, my pastor, my readers, the guy at the doughnut shop. Pay attention and you’ll never go unfulfilled.

This is my last “Coming of Age” column before I pass the space on to a new writer. Most of my first readers are probably raising kids of their own, and it’s just about time that this member of Generation X leave the column to a new millennial voice. I have learned much more from writing this column than I possibly could have imagined. I want to thank my readers over the years for teaching me more than I ever hoped possible.

Life can be scary. The passage of time can be daunting and looking out into the great unknown can be frightening. But stay bright, stay hopeful, stay faithful and no matter where life takes you, always, always remember what it’s like to be a person who is “coming of age,” looking at the world with new eyes and bright new ideas.