3 Reasons Why It’s Going To Be Okay

How do we know it’s going to be okay when we live in a world where security is elusive and the future is unclear? There are good things in our lives that conspire to make things work out. In this guest post, my daughter Alexandra Cizek shares these things. She presented them during her commencement address to Cascade High School in the Seattle area (video at end of post).


Look at us. Look to the person on your right… and on your left. Look where we are! Look at us in our gowns.

It’s all over:

> The sleepless nights of studying for tests.

> The anxiety of sitting in Verver’s class hoping desperately that he doesn’t call on you.

> The multiple notifications you get of “So and so posted in the Cascade HS Class of 2k16” page on Facebook.

We successfully completed our high school experience. When you look back on it, are you happy with it? Do you like what you did and who you became? Or do you wish things could have been different? Are you glad you decided to join that club where you met your best friend? Do you wish you would have gone to that one basketball game or have asked that one person to that dance? Do you regret the words you said…. or maybe the words you left unspoken?

No matter what, it is okay… because it’s in our past. There’s nothing you can do to change high school but to move forward and look ahead. We can learn from our mistakes and do things differently. Our past does not define us.

Starting tonight we will be in a special season of life where we get to start fresh. We get a clean slate. The “title” we were stereotyped by in high school is now gone. The decision we made that some defined us by has vanished. We can be whoever we want to be.

Remember when we were 4 and we wanted to be a rock star, police officer, or astronaut? Or maybe even a rockin’ police officer in space! Well now is the time we can make our dreams a reality. Okay maybe not all of us will become the next Hannah Montana or go to the moon, but we get to be whoever we want to be.

I clearly remember the night before freshman year. I was sitting downstairs on my couch with my family balling my eyes out because of how terrified I was of going to school the next day. Little private school, friendless Alexandra had to take on the big, scary, public high school. That means she would have to walk past the scary seniors, look up to all the juniors, try to be like the sophomores, and attempt to talk to the freshman. It was so scary!

The next day my brother walked me to my first class. The whole time we were walking people kept saying hi to him and it felt like he knew everybody. I was freaking out. I knew nobody. I was thinking “How does he know so many people? This will never be me.” Then we got to my class and it was time for him to go. I so desperately did not want him to leave me. But the time came… and he left… and I walked into my first class. To make a long story short, everything was okay. I met people that turned into friends… and some of them will be lifelong friends. I got involved and made some great memories.

You know, starting high school and starting adult life kind of feel the same way. We are young adults going into a big scary world, not knowing exactly what we want or what we are going to do. It’s scary now, but it will turn out okay. Here are 3 reasons why.


Number one… the future works out because of our character. Things don’t just turn out great on their own; it takes effort on our part. For example, we need to have the character trait of getting outside of out comfort zone. The best things happen when you put yourself out beyond what’s familiar. I’ve met some of the most important people in my life by simply saying hello. I’ve made my most meaningful memories just by signing up for something.
Stepping outside of our comfort zone doesn’t have to be something as drastic as running for student body president of your university or living on your own. It can be doing something as simple as leaving your dorm room door open so people can come in and say hi. Even better is to be the person that walks into someone else’s room and says hi. It can be as simple as deciding to join a rec sports team or community organization. No matter what you decide to do, reaching out and stepping outside of your comfort zone will make a difference in bigger ways than you can ever imagine.


How else do we know that things are going to be okay? Number two… Because failure isn’t final. We may get a job and get fired. We may declare a major only to find out it totally sucks. We may realize that we have to move back home after living on our own. It’s okay.
Failure isn’t final because of this simple principle: “Where we are at today is a result of the decisions we made yesterday. Where we will be tomorrow depends on the decisions we make today.” This is powerful. “Where we are at today is a result of the decisions we made yesterday. Where we will be tomorrow depends on the decisions we make today.” If things are messed up for us today, all we have to do is make different choices and we’ll change the course of our tomorrow. Things are going to be okay.


Finally, the third reason… Circumstances change, high school friends don’t. Just ask anyone who’s been to a class reunion! Our circumstance will never be the same after tonight. Everything we have known our whole lives is about to change. That is definitely an overwhelming feeling, feeling like this is the “end all be all”… but that’s not the case. Yes our circumstance is changing; we might not be sleeping in our own bed anymore or be involved in the same things we’ve always been involved in, but that doesn’t mean the people around us have to drastically change too.

Keep the friendships you’ve built, make an effort to stay in each other’s lives. But don’t let that hold you back from making new friends and putting yourself out there. I think that we will find that as time goes on we will talk less and less, but we will be able to pick right back up where we left off. It would be so easy to live in a somber post-high school land of sadness and to limit our future selves. But honestly, we’ve had our time to enjoy it. Now it’s time to say goodbye to the amazing chapter of life we’ve just experienced, and to say hello to the exciting new one waiting for us right around the corner.
Imagine this: your future best friend may be sitting in a graduation ceremony right now… just like you… and you don’t even know them yet. The many incredible memories you’re going to look back on and remember for the rest of your life are yet to be made. How exciting is that?

So wrapping it all up… Our season at Cascade has been filled with ups and downs. There have been many smiles but also many tears. We have made great memories that we will never forget, but also some that we wish we could forget. This will be a time in our lives that we will always remember and that we always hold close to the heart. But don’t be sad that it’s over, smile because it happened.

There is so much more just on our horizon. This isn’t the end of a story, simply the start of a new chapter. Of course we are filled with sadness as we’ve had our last pep assemblies, football games and food drives. Just as classroom lights slowly flicker to darkness, we realize that our high school experience has now come to an end.
But remember… you have your hand on the light switch… because while it is an end, it is also a new beginning.

Shakespeare once said, “The past is prologue.” Our whole lives, everything we’ve ever known, has been setting us up for this moment; these past 18 years have been the prologue to our story. We are now equipped to go out into the real world and leave our mark and be who we want to be.

Take advantage of this moment. Step outside of your comfort zone… try new things and fail… and hold onto your friendships while also creating new ones. This is it, Bruins. It has been an incredible journey, Class of 2016. Now go out… make the most of life… because it’s going to be okay.

It’s Going To Be Okay – Graduation Speech by Alexandra Cizek


Graduation Speech: You Are Not That Special



Commencement Speech: Russell Wilson



Commencement Address: Steve Jobs

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photo by: dcJohn

Life’s Transitions: How To Handle Them Well

This year I was asked present the commencement address at a middle school in the Seattle area. I was quite honored. It is a tremendous opportunity to share a little of life’s hard-gained wisdom with young people (and at a moment when they’re listening well.) Graduation is a natural time to talk about handling life’s transitions.

Transitions have always been a challenge for me. I was happy in middle school. Part of me didn’t want to move on to high school. After all, I had good friends and was well known around campus. On one level, starting over again at high school seemed wasteful. . . an unnecessary duplication of effort. I would go on to have similarly wonderful experiences in high school and in college, but was equally challenged when making those transitions.

With time, I have come to understand life is a series of transitions. You never arrive at a place of stability and permanence.

Big TuesdayGrowing up in San Diego, I would watch the endless swells coming in on the Pacific Ocean. Surfers would catch a swell as it broke near the shore, ride it in, and then swim out to catch the next wave. What a beautiful metaphor for life. Transitions come at us like waves on the ocean. It’s a perfectly natural cycle to surf a wave for the short time it exists, then move on and enjoy the next wave. I used this idea as the basis for what I shared with the graduates. Here are my ideas for handling life’s transitions well (a transcript of the commencement address):

Something amazing is about to happen.

In just a few minutes, Mr. Erickson is going to step up to this microphone and is going to dismiss you from Northshore Christian Academy (NCA) for the very last time. And it’s going to be quite a moment. How do I know? Exactly one year ago I was sitting right about there watching it happen to my daughter and last year’s eighth grade class. It was quite a moment.

As Mr. Thornton said, I’m Rob Cizek. I’m the executive pastor here at Northshore. I’m the behind-the-scenes guy who works with the school, the church, the buildings, the budget and the staff.

I’m also a Northshore dad. My son and daughter both graduated from NCA. As a matter of fact, this year has been the first where I haven’t had a student at the Academy. I know what you’ve experienced here through the eyes of my kids… from uniforms and weekly chapel… to athletics and walk-a-thons… to Mr. Erickson’s curious obsession with birds. Yeah, we all know about that, don’t we?

For many of you, leaving middle school and moving on to high school is the biggest transition of your life so far. You’re excited, nervous… and maybe a little sad about leaving behind the familiarity of this place and the friends you’ve had for a long time. Know that you are not alone. Every one of your fellow graduates feels pretty much the same way you do.
I would love to tell you that this transition will be your last, but of course I can’t do that. It won’t be. A few years from now you’ll be graduating from high school to college. Then from college to life. Then life will have plenty of transitions of its own.

Life’s a lot like a series of waves… you get past one transition, only to find there are several more on the way. So perhaps this is your greatest learning opportunity this year… to learn to transition well.

The first thing to know about life’s transitions is that they are normal. Your life may have been pretty steady these last several years at NCA. But in the future change will come more quickly. You’ll have only four years in high school, another four in college and probably fewer than that on your first couple of jobs. Adult life is a series of predictable and not-so-predictable transitions. It’s best not to fight them, but to welcome each transition as an exciting new chapter in life.

Look at transitions like a surfer looks at waves… catch a good wave when it comes by, work with it and get as much from it as you can… and then move on so you can catch the next wave.

stl 012Another way to navigate times of transition is to focus on what’s in front of you. . . out the windshield, not what’s behind you in the rear-view mirror. Did you enjoy the friends, teachers and experiences you had in middle school? Celebrate them. Get together in the coming days. Connect from time to time in the future. Let these people know how precious they are to you.

And then let them go.

Let them go.

You see life is a long journey. Very few people will be by your side the entire time. That’s okay. The precious years we have with our middle school, high school and college friends are supposed to be seasons… times to be savored. But when they’re over, they’re over. You are released to the next season of life. Celebrate what has been, stay connected in a healthy way, but don’t try to hang on too tightly to what’s in the rear-view mirror.

Here’s a thought. Right now, your high school best friend is out there and you probably don’t know them. They’re sitting at graduation, not knowing that they’re going to meet you freshman year. . . and you’re going to become best friends. Right now there are activities, experiences and life-long memories about to be made. I can’t say what exactly will happen to you in high school. But I can predict, with certainty, that if make the effort you have many wonderful experiences in front of you. . . just out your windshield.

While I made the transition to high school some time ago, there’s someone in our family who did it just this year. With some additional thoughts on how to transition well, here is my daughter and NCA 2012 graduate, Alex Cizek.

Thanks Dad. . . The first is getting involved. It’s the thing that separates the winners from the losers in high school. Find two or three things freshman year to be involved with. It can be sports, music, drama, DECA, academic clubs or leadership. For me, it was volleyball, color guard, choir, ASB and tennis. It doesn’t matter what you do, just that you do it. Your high school memories and friendships happen in the places you get involved in. It may seem scary at first, and I’m not going to lie, it can be a little intimidating but it is SO worth it. You just have to put yourself out there and get involved.

My second piece of advice is even more important. Transitions either draw us closer to God or they take us further away. High school is when you… you alone… decide whether you take Jesus seriously. Like me, most of you are going on to public school. You’re going to be outnumbered by people who don’t know God. Some will be hostile to Him and to you. Where you go with your faith in high school will have a major impact on the rest of your life. Is your faith your own… or is it just something to make your parents happy? This summer I encourage you to think about that. Commit to God… this time not as a kid, but as the young adult you are. Maintain that commitment every day. If you do, God will be there and see you through not just high school, but every transition in life.

Dad . . .

Lastly, I would like to leave you with a powerful tool. You can use this tool in any transition or anytime you want to go somewhere in life. It’s this thought:

Where I am today is a result of the decisions I made yesterday. Where I will be tomorrow depends on the decisions I make today.

Where I am today is a result of the decisions I made yesterday. Where I will be tomorrow depends on the decisions I make today.

I know this sounds pretty simple. . . but are getting the power here? You are not a victim of circumstance. If you really want to be somewhere next year, you can do things today that will get you there.

Going back to my daughter Alex’s story… She wanted to play volleyball for her high school team. She played here in middle school, but wasn’t sure she had the skills for high school. So last summer she attended volleyball camps. She practiced in the backyard. She went to summer practices at the high school.

When tryouts were over, she made the JV team… completely bypassing the freshman team. I say that not to brag on my daughter. . . but I was so proud that she took steps today that got her where she wanted to be tomorrow.

Another way to think about this… The things we do today put us on a path. More than anything else, it’s our direction determines our destination. Set your course in a good direction and your path will lead you to a good place.
NCA class of 2013 I wish you the best. I pray that I will see you transitioning well… that you’ll be looking forward through windshield, getting involved in your school, growing in faith, and making decisions today that will get you on the path to where you want to be tomorrow.

Two books helped inspire this speech and expand on the ideas presented here: The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley and Today Matters by John Maxwell. I highly recommend these books to anyone experiencing one of life’s transitions.

NEXT: Legacy Countdown – The Insidious App That Tracks Time Remaining With Your Kids


photos by: iansand & rockygirl05