Dear Year 12 leavers,

Here’s a shout-out to you, to all you students who have graduated. Woot! We’re sensing the relief, the elation that has flooded your senses as you’ve completed the last assignment, finished the last exam, compiled that last portfolio before saying goodbye to a significant chapter of your life.

Well done!

It’s been around 18 years, give or take, since you were born and started those baby steps towards discovering exactly who you are. You’ve been loved, nurtured and encouraged by people around you. Parents, friends, teachers, grandparents, coaches, carers. You’ve been through hard times and good times. Hopefully more of the latter. But you’ve also discovered how the hard times have shaped your character, built resilience and understanding and a sense of identity. It’s not like you’ve suddenly ARRIVED. Do we ever fully grasp who we are and what our part is in life? Yet, that’s ok. There’s encouragement in knowing that you will never fully know. That there are untold adventures ahead.

Now, here, you stand at the precipice of your future. It’s ok. That line wasn’t meant to intimidate or chain you to any of the pressures you might be feeling, to choose a career, to get a job, to earn a living, to knuckle down etc. etc. Thing is, whatever you choose for yourself, sometime down the track you’re going to look back and realise this epically crucial point that you can actually take on board right now.

It’s this: your attitude is everything.

Whether you wind up as some high-flying business mogul, or mucking out stables at a horse stud; single with a cat or married with three kids; living in a seaside villa or renting a one-bedroom unit in the ‘burbs, the joy you derive from life is wholly determined by your attitude.

Absolutely every gnarly cloud headed your way has a sparkly lining for the discovering. Your mission, my friend, is to find it before you are drowned in the downpour. And if we can linger on this metaphor a little longer… not all clouds look menacing. Some are white and fluffy and altogether alluring, until we’re in deep and the things we love are slipping away.

Maintain an attitude of joy.
Guard your beautiful heart.
Do not compromise. Not for anything.

And the best way to illustrate what I’m getting at here is to point you to someone who is a smashing example to us all.

Bernadette and her son Damian

Enter: Bernadette Black.

Now, Bernie fell pregnant at the age of 16. Can you imagine that? By your age she had a two-year-old in tow. A teen mum, many would have written her off. But Bernie bared her roaring-lion attitude and allowed her circumstances to shape her into a better version of herself. She overcame adversity to complete her education and become a Registered Nurse, going on to be appointed to many boards where she used her influence to shine a light on the challenges and prejudices facing people who fall pregnant as a teenager.

Bernie was this year named the 2019 Tasmanian Australian of the Year for her work founding the BRAVE Foundation, a charity which supports and represents 8300 expectant and parenting teens every year. This is the same organisation that was this year awarded $4.4 million to run a nationwide trial connecting 350 expecting and parenting teens to education and support opportunities.

You might also be familiar with the name Bernadette Black for her previous accolades as Barnados Australian Mother of the Year and Telstra Tasmania Woman of the Year.

Amazing, right? Yet, think about it. None of Bernie’s achievements would have happened if it wasn’t for a very unexpected blip in her life’s trajectory. Some might call it a black cloud, a mistake, a problem. But with perseverance and determination, she not only overcame the challenging time, she used it to fulfil some massive dreams.

We’re all capable of this.

Yes, you included. As long as we embrace every seemingly grey circumstance.

As a teacher said to Bernie when she was coming to terms with her pregnancy:

“The journey might be different now, but the destination can stay the same.”

Chew on that, my friend, and have a fabulous Summer break. You’ve earned it!


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Did you know that the human heart starts beating at just 4 weeks?

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