By the time most of you read this, my son Gideon will have marched across the gymnasium floor and received his high school diploma.
I have brainstormed some sage advice for Gideon’s next phase and hope that his fellow grads nationwide can benefit.
I’ll allow someone else to lecture 2021 graduates about following your dream, keeping a journal, subscribing to the local newspaper, formulating a career backup plan, paying it forward, starting retirement planning early, yada yada yada. I prefer to share tips you’re unlikely to hear anywhere else.
First, be patient with your elders when they emit trite expressions such as “Finishing high school already? Where does the time go?” Refrain from exclaiming, “When the baby takes its first step, you ask, ‘Where does the time go?’ When you unbox the Christmas decorations, you ask, ‘Where does the time go?’ Maybe if your generation wasn’t always asking where the time goes, we’d have a colony on Mars with a cure for the common cold by now! Buy a calendar!”
Before you move too far away, make a point of thanking favorite teachers who inspired you. Don’t procrastinate until you run across them in a retirement home. (“Mr. Johnson, you were an amazing Drivers Ed instructor. Of course, that was back when you could still see above the stick shift…”)
Don’t be one of those “School’s out…forever!” misanthropes who fall off the face of the earth. Stay in touch so you’ll know about class reunions. If you feel awkward about reunions, assemble the new IKEA Reunion Table Deluxe. It has built-in popular kids!
Be true to your school. Keep the STANDARDIZED TESTING momentum going. Don’t submit to a field sobriety test until you see some Number Two pencils!
Get a head start on embellishing your “uphill both ways” tales of Covid-19 for sharing with youngsters someday. (I’m serious. In a heartbeat, you’ll go from being a senior who steals a rival school’s eagle mascot to being a senior who swipes extra packs of condiments from the Early Bird Special.) Regale them with horror stories of doggedly administering wedgies with remote learning.
Hear me out on this: get massive injections of Botox. That way you can keep a straight face when you tell the NEXT generation how great Generation Z’s music was.
Disprove the myth that “you’ll never use most of the stuff you learn in school.” Make it fit. (“As a certified EMT, I can see that a tracheotomy is called for. But what say we apply a little Faulknerian trigonometry to the wound? And climb that rope, you loser!”)
Steel yourself for the fact that the Real World is shockingly different than school. Snow days? Few and far between. In-service days? Forget it. And there’s no such thing as pulling the wool over the eyes of “this week’s substitute CEO.” That’s right; there’s no one to con with “But…but…the regular CEO lets us take a three-hour lunch and matches our 401(k) contribution with an actual Cayman island!”
Finally, pick a random quote from your yearbook and fully incorporate it into your life. For instance, “Never forget French class!” So, in 15 years when you’re an airline pilot, you’ll suddenly have a flashback. (“Zut alors! Ou est la bibliotheque? Ou est la bibliotheque???? Passengers, fasten your seatbelts, s’il vous plait…I’m diving lower to find that bibliotheque! AIIEEEE!”)