The following article was adapted from the letter I wrote to my littlest sister on her high school graduation day this year.

Dear Recent High School Grads,

As you enter this new phase of your life, remember that YOU are the writer of your story and right now, the possibilities of where you can take it are endless! The unlimited number of paths you can take and the opportunities available to you are as exciting as they are overwhelming. It’s ok not to have all the answers. You will take wrong turns and make mistakes but as long as you stay true to yourself with each decision you’re faced with, you will get exactly where you want to be!

My advice for you is of course to travel but also, to read! One idea, one sentence, written in a book or spoken from the lips of someone different than you can change your whole life!

For your graduation present, I am giving you four books. Each taught me something I wished I would have known when I graduated high school.

A few of these books I listened to in audio format. Lowkey- My discovery of audiobooks was a game changer. I spent most of high school and my early 20s putting off reading for “later” because I was too easily distracted to finish a book. With audiobooks I can listen while doing something active, like driving or walking my dog, which helps me focus. Thanks to audiobooks I have read- listened to- more books in the past 3 years than in the rest of my life combined!

Even though it took me until I was older to realize it, books have the power to greatly impact our growth, direction and our overall quality of life. While learning certain lessons earlier may have prevented me from making a few mistakes, I have no desire to go back and change the path I’ve taken; it brought me to the only place I want to be today- with you, on your graduation day!

I hope something within these titles resonates with you and helps shape your story!


Melissa Ann Maida

The Alchemist -Paulo Coelho

I read this book years ago! Flipping through it right now I think it may be time for a reread. This book is packed full of lessons but the one that resonated most with me at the time I read it was: when someone wants something bad enough, when their passion comes from a place of truth, the whole universe will conspire to help them get it. It’s wild to see how precisely this rings true for me today!

The Art of Non-Conformity -Chris Guillebeau

As I read this I could have sworn someone broke into my mind, stole my thoughts, beliefs and desires and used them to write a book. This book makes it ok to question it when someone says “because that’s what you’re supposed to do.” Guillebeau shows us that most people in this world are “sleepwalking” and we’re under no obligation to follow suite. I’ve actually listed to this book twice in the past two years!

The 4-Hour Work Week -Tim Ferriss

This book is college for anyone who wants to live life on their own terms. The 4-Hour Work Week is a practical guide for avoiding work for work’s sake, starting niche businesses online and living a life of freedom. There are a lot of technical details that can be skimmed over/fast forwarded through during the first read but several times now I have gone back in search of a specific piece of advice while working on my website and blog!

The Four Agreements -Don Miguel Ruiz

By the time we graduate high school we are filled with deep rooted beliefs, many of which we do not know the origins of, why we believe them or if we even believe them at all. This book helped me identify and discard beliefs I had that were not my own. Beliefs that were imposed on me overtime by society, religion or family. By getting rid of beliefs that were not my own, I was able to focus on what matters to me and figure out how I wanted to write my story!