Gehrke: We can’t know it all, but here are some thoughts for the Class of 2019, including one special grad

(photo courtesy of Robert Gehrke) Among the great mysteries are: What happened to Amelia Earhart? And how did Georgia Gehrke, seen here with her dad visiting one of Earhart's planes at the Smithsonian in about 2005, grow up so fast? The younger Gehrke is graduating from high school on Thursday, May 23, 2019.

When she was wee, back when we still lived in Washington, D.C., one of my favorite things to do was take my daughter to the National Air and Space Museum. She was infatuated with Amelia Earhart’s plane.

Infatuated with the plane and frustrated with me because I couldn’t adequately explain what happened to her.

People don’t just disappear, dad. She must have thought I was an idiot.

This afternoon, Georgia graduates from high school, just like thousands of young people this week.

By now I hope she has come to accept that I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does, and that’s OK. But I’ve also learned a few things along the way, about Ms. Earhart and about life that I’d like to share with those grads headed out into a new life, especially my Tiny G.

Robert Gehrke

Find your passion.

Time zips by and you’ll spend more than enough of it working. It’s a lot more tolerable if you’re doing something you can put your heart into and feel like you’re making a difference in your community. There are rewards for this that won’t show up in your bank account. So go do what you love, just as long as it’s not in newspapers.

Accrue experiences, not things.

Comedian Steven Wright said: “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” Don’t get caught up in what you have; focus on what you can do. Try things that scare you or thrill you, take you outside your comfort zone or let you experience something new. Nobody is going to be sitting around in 20 years telling stories about the jeans they had once. At least nobody you want to spend time with.

The brake is on the left.

Enough said.

Love your tribe, but don’t be tribal.

Generally speaking, people are good. Some are better than others, so find those people — your friends, your family, whatever — and keep them close. Defend them, be loyal to them, support them and, more often than not, they will do the same.

At the same time, you don’t know it all — notwithstanding the argument I had with 3-year-old Georgia who insisted trees don’t make oxygen because she “knew a girl once who cut down all the trees and she could still breathe.”

It’s a big world full of people with different experiences. Listen — really listen — to people with whom you disagree. Make sure you have plenty of people in your life who will tell you you’re wrong and will challenge your notions. Engage with them, value their perspectives, and don’t be afraid to admit that, on very rare occasions, they might be right. It’s how you grow.

Bell bottoms are not a good look.

This is important. Sooner or later, they’ll make another comeback, and just because everyone is wearing them doesn’t make it a good idea. (The same is generally true of mustaches, although this is less applicable to my daughter). If you want to, go ahead and wear them anyway. Just recognize that someday your kids will mock you for it. And that’s OK.

Lift people up.

We’re all trying to get by in this world and do the best we can. So help people out when you can and someday they might be there to help you when you need it.

Walk the dog now and then.

A waggy tail is the best therapy.

There is no karmic scoreboard.

Sometimes, even if you do everything right, life will hit you with a karate chop to the throat. It can be twisted that way. What matters is how you respond. Be quick to forgive and hold onto gratitude instead of grudges. If life doesn’t keep score, neither should you.

Learn to enjoy the tranquility.

When I was a high school grad, nobody had cellphones (a couple of the cool kids had pagers) and there wasn’t even really an internet, and the pace and demands could still be overwhelming. It’s worse now and will get more so in the future. Make time to recenter yourself, take a breath, clear your mind, unplug the phone and reconnect to the world around you.

Amelia crashed.

Historians generally agree that Earhart crashed, either in the ocean after missing her landing spot on Howland Island, or crash-landing on Gardner Island, about 250 miles away. Some speculate she and her navigator may have survived for some time on the island and bones and artifacts have been recovered to support that theory. It’s not a real answer, but it’s the best I can do.

Now it’s your turn to go do the best you can, Class of 2019 (especially Georgia). Find your own answers and ask new questions, be brave and dream big. Sure, you might crash. Or you might make history.