This year’s graduates are ready to go.
Actually, this year’s graduates were ready to go about six months ago.
Their parents, I believe, are in varying stages of readiness, however. I’m not anywhere near this part of my parenting life, so what do I know, but I imagine it’s very hard to reconcile the physical reality of your 18 year old leaving the nest with the emotional pull of the memories of the baby you once watched take his first steps or go off to her first day of kindergarten…those little people needed their parents so much and the painful truth is that they don’t need their parents in the same ways at all anymore. One thing is very clear right now about this cohort of seniors, in particular. It’s time. For everybody. And it will be great.
I wrote this a while ago for a different group, and I don’t want to try to pass it off as words of wisdom for this crew in specific because they are so very much not the same. But a lot of it still applies. Hell, a lot of it applies to adults.
Some of the most wonderful teenagers I’ve ever taught are graduating from high school tonight. In fact, some of the most wonderful teenagers I’ve never taught are graduating from high school tonight. They had a rehearsal for the ceremony this morning, but they’re still lurking around the building; as I write, they are playing games in a classroom, reluctant to leave to the building and all that the leaving represents, I reckon.
But they are ready. They’ve been ready for a few months. Subtle changes begin in the fall – fissures in friendships, shifting family relationships, and a sort of impatience with the status quo – but by now, there is no mistaking their need to get on with it, this business of living.
So,whirly girls, ready to head out on this great adventure, listen up for one more lecture. I know some stuff.
Get a job. Even a small one. Practice a hobby. Play a sport. Keep busy. If you spend time sitting around, you’ll think too much, and thinking too much is a bad habit for young, smart women. Trust me on this one.
You don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up. Go to college and figure out who you are and what you love. The rest will work itself out.
Make friends with someone you never would have thought to make friends with in high school. You come from a small town. The world is big. There is so much you don’t know.
Along those lines, sometimes the family you are born into isn’t the family that supports and sustains you through the rest of your life. Sometimes you have to choose your own family.
I don’t know what the female equivalent of “Bros before Hos” is, but it ain’t that simple. Your friends are important, and you shouldn’t chuck them for a love interest, especially if it’s not The One. But ultimately, love is pretty damn important, not worth losing yourself, but worth some sacrifices.
You’ll know when it’s The One. You should try to go through some Not The Ones first, though, just to be sure.
Life is too short to spend time with anyone who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. And nobody but you can make you happy.
Read. Anything. But Read.
Girls who don’t have other girls as friends are not to be trusted.
Don’t ever take a job just for the money. You’ll be miserable. And ultimately, spending 40+ hours a week doing something that makes you miserable is way worse than eating spaghetti four nights a week.
Stop feeling bad about your body. You will look back at pictures of yourself at this age and be furious that you wasted a single moment being critical about your own appearance.
Nine times out of ten, your mother is right.
The tenth? You’re not allowed to say, “I told you so.” But you will anyway.
Even if it’s not fully developed, you have a picture in your head of what your life will be when you’re grown up. It won’t be like that. And that’s OK. Because what it will be is better than fine.
When bad things happen, you have to grieve for whatever it is you lost. If you don’t, it’ll come back and get you in weird ways.
Dress your age.
Teach yourself how to be comfortable alone. Work up to being able to request a table for one in a restaurant. True fact: one of life’s great pleasures is going to a movie on your own.
If you wouldn’t want your mom to see it on the internet, don’t let anyone take a picture of it.
Laugh a lot. Seek out the absurd.
The right decision is usually the hard choice.
And, like Abby Sunderland, there will be people cheering you on, proud of you, and ready to come and help the moment you ask.