© Daily Herald staff
As you get older, it gets a little more difficult every year to read graduation speeches.
I don’t know how high school principals and staff do it year after year.
They are invariably earnest reflections on the time that students spent together, with poetic thoughts about the new chapters in their lives that they are entering.
For many, the fairy tale will begin now. They’ll head to university or trade school, find a job and a life partner, buy a house, have kids and live long happy lives.
They’re the lucky ones because statistics tell us that there are a lot of potential road bumps along the way.
If you’re a sensitive reader, this might be a good place to stop. The next several paragraphs are going to explore the unvarnished world that these fresh-faced youngsters are venturing out into.
For instance, one-third of first marriages will end in divorce and 16 per cent of Canadians will be divorced again after the first one.
The average duration of marriages ending in divorce was 14.5 years in 2005. The average age of those who divorced was 44 for men and 41 for women.
Two per cent of people aged 15-24 in Saskatchewan will become problem gamblers and 9.4 per cent will be moderate risk gamblers.
About 11 per cent of the population will develop a drinking or drug addiction.
Sixty per cent of the drugs sold in Canada will be to people between the ages of 15-24.
One in five Canadians will struggle with mental health issues every year, with the 15-24 age group suffering the highest incidence of problems.
The unemployment rate in Saskatchewan was 3.6 per cent in May, with a higher rate for young people.
Statistics Canada breaks down the grim mortality numbers for the 15-24 age group. Between 2004 and 2008, a low of 2,158 and a high of 2,328 people died each year.
Of those totals, between 910 and 1,015 died in accidents every year. Between 417 and 509 committed suicide.
More than 100 were the victims of homicide; the rest came from a variety of diseases and medical conditions.
I guarantee that someone the grads know reasonably well will be gone in the next few years. There are many other people that they will see for the final time at graduation as life takes them in very different directions.
Friendships that they consider rock solid will diminish with a change in geography, interests and life situations.
I don’t write this to scare high school grads; it’s just a natural part of life.
Anyone who has a few miles on their personal odometer has seen people they know travel down all these different roads.
Many of us are hotwired with self-destructive tendencies that catch up to us at some point. The statistics bear that out.
If I had the benefit of delivering a speech all these years later, I would warn the high school grads to watch out for each other. I would tell them to be aware of the risks but to enjoy themselves.
While social media makes it far easier than ever before to keep some level of interest in the lives of those we know, I’ll advise them to let some friendships go.
New ones will eventually take their place with a new level of maturity.
I would tell them to put the phone down and enjoy the world around them. I would try to sneak it in that they will gradually realize that they aren’t the smartest person in the room. Some will even grasp the horrible truth that their parents were right about a lot of things all along. (That might be the most horrible truth in this column for some of them.)
I would assure them that they will undergo a life of learning and eventually grasp that experience does bring wisdom.
And I would tell them that new adventures await and they should find a way to seize the moment on a daily basis.
Don’t get caught up dreaming about the future because the present passes far too quickly.
Enjoy the road you’re on because, ultimately, the journey is the point.
• • •
Congratulations to Prince Albert Raiders star forward Leon Draisaitl for his big day last Friday at the NHL draft.
I’ve been fortunate to speak to the big German teenager a number of times over the last couple of seasons and he is unfailingly polite in his excellent English. He nods or says hello every time he sees me, which is unusual for someone of his age.
My favourite Leon Draisaitl moment came on Jan. 7, 2013 during his first season with the Raiders.
Leon had just returned from his first World Junior Championship, in Russia with Team Germany, where he made a strong impression with hockey fans and scouts -- and I was writing a story about his experience.
We were sitting in the boardroom in the Raiders office and he was exhausted but happy to chat.
We talked about Leon lining up against his then-linemate Mark McNeill -- “When I first saw him at the warmup I just started to laugh. It was so weird to play against my linemate” -- but it was something he started the conversation with that told me exactly who Leon Draisaitl was.
He told me that he was happy to get back to his Canadian home and Raider billet Carol Ring, along with his roommate/teammate Shane Danyluk.
“I really missed them both,” Leon told me. “Carol and Dany, it was nice to see them.”
He’s an amazing hockey player with a promising pro future but to me he’ll always be the engaging 17-year-old kid who missed his billet mom and his friend as he played in the world junior hockey tournament.
Good luck to Leon, regardless of what league he plays in next season.
Perry Bergson is the Daily Herald’s managing editor. You can reach him at 765-1302 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org