Column: Follow your dreams, grads

A young friend of mine will join the hundreds crossing the graduation stage and tossing their caps in the air today at Kingman High. I thought I would offer a little advice in honor of his and his classmates' achievements. So here is my two cents.

Most of you have already figured out if you're going to college or are scouting out jobs. Most of you going on to college have already figured out where you're going and what you're studying. For you, this is the most exciting time of your life. Those of you flying the coop for a far-flung school get to explore the world without your parents hanging over your shoulder.

To your parents, it's the most terrifying time of their lives. I know my parents worried about my two brothers and I when we went off to college.

I was so excited that I didn't call my parents for the first two weeks I was away at school. When I finally figured out how to set up and access my college e-mail account (this was when e-mail was relatively new), I found half a dozen e-mails from my brothers asking if I was still alive and would I please call Mom and Dad. The moral of this story? In order to avoid panicked phone calls from your parents, make an effort to call your parents at least once a week. Trust me, you will thank me for it. Parents have a sixth sense of when you are in the middle of doing something you shouldn't and they will call you at that exact moment ... and they won't give up calling until you answer the phone!

After you've mollified your parents, at least until the next phone call, avoid doing something that will get you involved with the police or your face plastered on the Internet. This seems like common sense, but after you've had a few drinks, common sense sometimes takes a backseat. Of course, you shouldn't be drinking if you're under 21. Besides, hangovers are horrible, and those hilarious photos someone took of you dancing drunk on the table have a nasty way of showing up at future job interviews, even if you deleted them from your Facebook page. And parents, you have to trust that you raised your kids right and that they will do the right thing.

There are two more very important things students graduating this year should know. First, don't let anyone talk you out of doing or studying what you dream to do. I loved to draw in school. When I said I wanted to study graphic design in college, my mother became concerned.

"It's a very competitive field and you're not a very competitive person," she said. She was right; at the time, I was not a very competitive person. My dad suggested journalism. That sounded good, too, because I also loved to write. Less than two years into my studies, my dad started having second thoughts.

"You're not a very extroverted person. I'm not sure if this is the right field for you. What about teaching?" he said. Too late. I was going to be a reporter.

After two years at a private college, my parents had me transfer to a larger university closer to home. It's something I regret allowing them to talk me into doing because I wasn't happy staying at home and commuting to school. I struggled with some of my classes, and it didn't help that my parents hovered. "We're paying for your education, we need to see your grades." They also continued to suggest that I study something else since I didn't seem to be doing as well as they thought I should.

Which leads to my second very important point. Don't be afraid to change. If you feel like you've hit a brick wall in the path to your dream, look for the path around it. Also, don't be afraid to admit that you don't like the field you have chosen. Statistics show that people change jobs and careers more than once in their lives. I made two drastic changes in the last year and a half of my college experience. I had had enough of my parents' nitpicking, so I pulled three loans in my own name and told my parents my grades were no longer their business. That same year, I switched majors from journalism to political science, partly because the subject interested me, partly because I was tired of hearing my parents ask when I was going to graduate, but mostly because I was not moving forward with my life. My parents became even more worried: How was I going to find a job in political science?

I would say those were the two most important changes I've made in my life. It was the first time I took charge and did what I wanted. Applying for those loans and making the decision to change majors showed me that I could respect my parents concerns but I didn't need their approval for something I wanted to do. It also gave me the courage to take other risks in my life, such as moving thousands of miles away from my family to take a job at a daily paper in a small town in Arizona.

That's not to say I've had an easy time being a journalist. I'm not a social butterfly, and my dad, to this day, continues to suggest that I move into a better paying career. But I'm enjoying what and who this job brings to my life and I like the idea of what and who it can bring into my future.

So 2010 graduates, congratulations, good luck and enjoy the rest of your lives doing what you want to do.