My first memory of you is as a fuzzy image in a sonogram photo that your beaming father proudly showed the office. Most of the time I remember you as that little kid of about two or three sitting on my lap with a big grin on your face.
You've always been a good boy. You've always made your mom and dad, γιαγιά, and your uncle Adam very proud. We've never had to worry about the kid that you were or what kind of person you would become.
For the past eighteen years, whether you realized it or not, the foundation for your life was laid. You are fortunate that your foundation is strong. It includes the love, admiration, and support of your family, the discipline to achieve instilled, the education important to success, the communal embrace of the Greek community, the frivolity of youthful pleasures, and the belief that your life will be good.
Now, the life that you build on that foundation is left to you. I would never try to tell you who to be or who to become. But, I do have a few thoughts, a few suggestions that I hope you will consider.
Start now by building on your success as a student and continue until that work is complete. Make certain you obtain your degree, and if possible your graduate degree. This will be one of the most consequential endeavors of your life. When temptation leads you to something other than study and high academic achievement, STOP! Finish the task, earn high marks, and graduate (again) with honors. Remember, university isn't about just getting your degree -- it's a cornerstone in the rest of your life.
Maintain your intellectual curiosity and always ask 'why.' Always.
Aspire. You don't have to aspire to greatness. Aspire to be a great person. Reach farther than you think possible. Build your successful life by building on accumulated small successes. The cumulative effect is monumental. But, don't be afraid of failure. You'll use those, too, as mortar.
Expand your universe. Really get to know people, places, and cultures other than your own. Your life will be much richer having experienced something other than just vanilla or chocolate.
Be an individual. Do not follow the masses. Move to the beat of a different drummer, but not for the sake of being different.
Love what you do. Find something you are passionate about and do that. Make what you love your life's work so that you aren't working all your life just to pay for things.
Give. Make a difference in other people's lives, but do it when no one is looking and there's no credit in it for you.
Be compassionate and tolerant. If your 'crowd' is casting stones or making fun of others -- then find a new crowd, but not before you stand up for the one they denigrate.
Wisely choose your friends. Commit to those that matter. Strive to make a difference in their life. Do not cast your lot with fools, bigots, or bullies -- they'll cast long shadows in your life.
Look at life through a prism. It's easy to become myopic. Learn more. Do more. See more. Be more. Don't settle for seeing life through a telescope.
Read and reread Rudyard Kipling's sage advice in his timeless poem 'If.' Come back to it from time to time.
Now you're on your way. It's an exciting time. You have the love of your family and your uncle Adam. You've earned our admiration and respect.
Your life is full of promise and hopefully adventure, too!
Remember, Nicholas, you're not a boy anymore. You're a young man. BECOME YOUR OWN MAN!