Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dear Class of 2014

On Saturday I'm headed to The Dalles to see my last brother graduate from high school. If I was in charge of speaking at his graduation, this is what I would say:

Dear Class of 2014:

Congratulations on your achievement. Commencement ceremonies like this are pretty boring and five years from you probably won't remember who spoke, let alone what they said. And yet it is important you be here anyway. Get used to that idea, because attending boring yet important (and yet is it really actually important in the grand scheme of things?) meetings is for sure a part of being an adult.

Don't worry, there's lots of really awesome parts of adulthood too. Freedom and money and all of that. You'll see what I mean.

If you were a nerd in high school, you probably told yourself that someday those losers who shoved you in a locker one too many times before dropping out of school will be working for you (or someone like you) someday. Statistically speaking, probably. But before you get too cocky, remember that if things go south for you and you're one of those Millennials who can't find a job after college, those "losers" who dropped out of high school will beat you out for a job at McDonald's because management thinks you're overqualified. So stay humble. Life doesn't owe you anything. Not even a job at McDonald's.

That being said, your choices matter. The secret to success is knowing what you want out of life and then doing what you need to do (ethically) to get it. It's really that simple. You might not get exactly what you want every time ... not everyone can win American Idol or become a famous playwright. But even if you miss the mark on some of those types of goals, you'll sure as heck get closer to success than the people who drifted aimlessly through life, not knowing what they wanted or too lazy or insecure to go after it. Maybe you won't win American Idol and become the next Carrie Underwood, but you might make some good side money from the advertising on your YouTube covers of her songs.

Don't binge drink in college (or after). Failing a test because you're hung over, getting taken advantage of while you're unconscious, breaking your neck after falling out of a frat house window, posting a career-destroying photo on Facebook, getting arrested for underage drinking or puking all over yourself in front of a cute girl does not make you an adult. It makes you someone who made a dumb decision and suffered an unfortunate consequence.

Get experience. Seriously. Life experience. Work experience. Romantic experience. Cultural experience. An empty résumé and Facebook page full of bathroom mirror selfies isn't going to impress anyone worth impressing.

Speaking of romantic experience, I'm not going to give you any advice on that because it's different for everyone. Getting married at age 20 is the best decision some people ever made and the worst decision other people made. Leaving a good job to follow a significant other to a new city was a great choice for the people who are still married to that person 10 years later, but a terrible choice for the people who got dumped three weeks down the road and were unemployed for another year after that. So I don't know what to tell you, besides good luck.

Your credit score is super important. Don't screw it up.

Also: learn how to cook.

Remember your parents will always be your parents no matter what. When you're 25 your mom will still text you to tell you that the thing you liked on Facebook was inappropriate, and your dad will still worry about the guys you date treating his little girl right. The good news is they will seem exponentially smarter the older you get, until eventually when they say "You really should get that checked out" you say "You're right" instead of "Don't worry so much, I'm sure it will be fine." (Spoiler alert: It usually isn't fine.)

People are more important than things, career accomplishments, paychecks, television, your pride, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Don't continually let yourself become a footnote in a chapter of someone's life when you could have played a main character in their autobiography.

And finally ... don't forget to have fun. The concept of forgetting to have fun sounds ridiculous now, but there will come a day when you become so focused on all of your very adult responsibilities that you will realize that you have literally forgotten to do fun things. When that day comes, hearken back to the teenager you are today and tell yourself ...


Don't waste it.

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