More than 6,000 Lee County students will pass the single most important milestone in their young lives beginning 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, the future appears a tad brighter than for the last few classes - the economy is improving, the job market is a bit better, and officials are more committed to containing education costs.
Still, 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 continued word to the wise.
Those entering or preparing for today's real world economy face three things: More competition and a narrowing of options as some formerly choice career paths have been changed - or eliminated forever - by technology. They also face lower starting wages and can expect to stay on the same rung of the career ladder longer while the economy continues to move toward normalcy.
Our best advice for the Class of 2013? It's still 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. As we stated last year at this time, 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 . Then select the path that will get you there.
This is not new advice by the way, it's advice that transcends both generations and the economic cycle.
Meanwhile, best wishes to the Class of 2013, the future does, again, look bright.
May the road ahead be paved with nothing but success.