To every eighteen-year-old in the country who is graduating high school in the next week, I have some advice. Oh, you don’t want to listen because what do I know, I’m just an English teacher? Well, let me tell you, I am not naive. I am not stupid. I have been around the block a few times, and this is what I know:
1. You don’t just make $100,000 dollars a year out of high school. If you know someone who did, he is the exception. The only way to make money, real money, is to get an education. For some, that means college. For others, it may mean an apprenticeship to learn a craft. Whatever route you take, you are going to have to apply yourself to learning a skill that will someday qualify you to earn the big bucks.
2. Your parents were not born yesterday. They are not naive. They are not stupid. They have been around the block a few times. They have lots of stories that you will never hear because it is probably better that you don’t. Every time you think you have pulled the wool over their eyes, you haven’t. They chose to look the other way.
3. Any job is a good job when you are eighteen. I cannot tell you how many times I hear a high school student say, “I will not work for less than $15.00 an hour. I’m not working for crappy minimum wage.”
Really? $15.00 an hour in a full-time job is $31,200 a year, a respectable salary for an adult who is reliable, dependable, and hard-working.
I am not saying you are not or cannot be reliable, dependable, or hard-working, but I am saying you better lower those expectations or you will have no job making no money at all.
4. Spelling counts. Speaking correctly counts even more. Thus, when you do get a job and work with adults who have mortgages and support families, they will not be impressed by your poor use of the English language or your slang swagger. You want to make the big bucks? Talk like an adult.
5. Parents die. Hopefully, for you, it will be decades before this happens to you, but it will. They will die and you will be left with regret for all you did not say and all you did not do for them. Drop the “too cool” attitude and thank them. Tell your mom and dad that you love them. Tell them as often as you can. Trust me, when they have passed on, you want to say it every day and you can’t.
6. No one really cares about your drama. Sorry, this is a hard pill to swallow for any egocentric, narcissistic, self-indulgent eighteen-year-old. The rest of us see you as just one of the 7, 043, 264, 810 people who live on this planet. You think you got problems? You should talk to number 4,235,656,001 in India– now he has problems! As Tom always says to our own daughters when they are whining or crying over something obtuse, “Save the drama for your momma.” In other words, quit blubbering and get back to living!
As for the next few years, it is probably not going to be what you think it is going to be and that’s okay. If you would have told the eighteen year old Cheryl that it would take four colleges and seven years to get through undergraduate, she would have laughed in your face. Yet, that’s what happened. I grew as a person every time I got a hard knock from life. I grew as an individual discovering myself.
Most importantly, no matter what happens–
Say “Thank You”
Remember, this is your one and only life: live it!