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Each year in this space, we like to take a moment to congratulate the many high school seniors across Fairfax County who’ve spent the past 13 years conjugating verbs, reducing fractions and mastering new languages.

Over the next two weeks, roughly 22,000 students will receive diplomas from public and private high schools across Fairfax.

They may not realize it now, but these new graduates have achieved a significant accomplishment in their young lives. Less than a week into their kindergarten year, most of this year’s graduates were pulled out of class as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. A year later, the D.C. sniper attacks meant no outdoor recess or P.E. for most of the first quarter—quite a sacrifice for the average 7-year-old. To their credit, this group not only persevered, but excelled throughout the next decade.

Many of this year’s grads will go on to college, while others will take different routes. Some will enter the workplace, and others will join the military. The Class of 2014 represents all walks of life.

No matter where they go, these young men and women should be grateful for the many opportunities they have to lead happy, productive lives.

If we were to give one piece of advice, it would for those senior students to pause and reflect.

“Pause and reflect?” you ask. “We don’t have time to pause and reflect in today’s hectic society.” You’ve likely caught a disorder from your parents called “Too Busy-itis.”

In your very worthy quest for achievement, for recognition, for that all-important “good job,” it’s easy to lose sight of the moment.

Too easy to forget how important this moment is, when the next moment is so exciting.

The first phase of your schooling is over. You’ve thought long and hard about your plans for next year, and most of you have mapped out a tentative direction.

Once you have that diploma in your hand, take a minute during the coming days to revel in this moment. Savor the four years of hard work, the memories with friends and faculty, as well as every other aspect of high school. For once, take the opportunity to slow down before stepping over that finish line, because there is only one chance to cross it

For those of you leaving home to go to college, look around at your parents and your siblings. Because, by the time you come home at Christmas, you’ll be a different person.

Your friends will still be your friends, but they’ll have changed, too. You will no longer have the common bond of shared daily experiences.

For those of you starting work or entering military service, your lives will change drastically. Take a look at the person in the mirror and try to lock that image in your memory. This time next year, you might not recognize him or her.

Be gentle with your parents. They know what’s around the corner, and it can scare them.

Change is good, change is exhilarating, change is difficult. Enjoy “the same” for a little while longer. It’ll be gone before you know it.