DEAR __________: A LETTER TO A RECENT HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE

choose your own path, Dear __________: (A Series of Letters), graduates, high school, high school graduate, high school graduates, high school graduation, letter, letters, seniors, young adults

Dear Recent High School Graduate,

Two things to know before you read this letter:

  1. Please feel free to ignore all of the advice I’m about to give you.
  2. This is not the letter you think it is, so read it until the end.
  3. If your attention span for old people shelling out advice is limited, skip to the last paragraph.

In regards to number one, I can’t help but think, who am I to judge? When I graduated high school, I would have ignored me, too. When I graduated high school, I would have also willingly skipped my college classes, drank shots of Vodka *in singsong voice* all night long, and gone bowling until two in the morning. Now my typical night involves eating a nice dinner out, getting puked on by my daughter, and curling up next to my wife for bedtime, all no later than ten in the evening. You’re likely thinking, well that’s depressing, but I am thinking it is better than all my skipping/Vodka/bowling experiences combined.

We’re allowed to disagree, believe it or not. Over a decade separates our experience.

I’ll remind you that this is not the letter you think it is, so if you’ve gone this far, read it until the end (referring to number two). I have no interest in telling you not to skip your college courses, not to drink Vodka all night long, and not to go bowling until two in the morning. What do I know about who you are and where you want to go? Nothing. Perhaps you are meant to skip those classes because they are boring and even worse, you’re in the wrong major altogether. Did your parents tell you to declare that major? Your friends? Some guidance counselor? Maybe you’re meant to drink Vodka all night long. Get a cab please—how will you continue to drink Vodka on all the other nights if you’re not alive to do so? Also, I will warn you that alcohol helps you gain weight. Not that I’m speaking from experience… It might be that you should bowl until two in the morning. In fact, that sounds fun, and I encourage you to do so. I’m too old and tired for all that, so I’ll live vicariously through you.

There is one piece of advice I want to give you that I really, really, really want you to at least consider. Just a smidge. A teensy, weensy bit. It shouldn’t hurt that much. I want you to be careful of how you choose your paths. This doesn’t mean what you think it means, and yes, I know you rolled your eyes at me. I am not asking you to take a certain path. I don’t think that you have to go to college or start a business or travel to Europe or major in mathematics or abstain from alcohol or join a fraternity/sorority or get a respectable day job or hitchhike or get married or find your bliss, even. That’s not what I mean by “be careful how you choose your paths.”

All I mean is make sure it is you that is choosing your paths.

When I tell you to be careful how you choose your paths, I mean that you should skip your college classes if they aren’t important to you. Even further, though, you might consider why those college classes aren’t important to you and if college, in general, is important to you. Is it you that chooses to skip those classes? Or do your friends want to hang out, friends who maybe don’t care about college like you do? So if they encourage you to skip class, are you skipping because they’ve encouraged you to or are you skipping because college doesn’t matter to you? There is no wrong answer to this question. I want you to be happy. I want you to choose a path that leads to your happiness.

When I tell you to be careful how you choose your paths, I mean that you should stay up all night long drinking Vodka if you want to. Yes, as I already mentioned, you should do so responsibly, but if you do want to drink Vodka all night and you’re not worried about gaining weight, then by all means, drink on. You might at least ask yourself if you like Vodka, though. You might also ask if you care about your health and if you like the type of person you are when you drink. Believe it or not, drinking too much is bad for you, but also believe or not, many college students do it regularly for a few years and are still exemplary citizens today. I don’t know. Everyone is different. The point really is that you should be out drinking all night long because you enjoy doing so, you know how to get a ride, and you actually like Vodka. Is this all true? Once again, there is no wrong answer to this question. I want you to be happy. I want you to choose a path that leads to your happiness.

When I tell you to be careful how you choose your paths, I mean that you should go bowling until two in the morning if you want to. Bowling is fun, especially cosmic bowling—have you ever been? If not, you must check it out. If you do think you want to choose the path that leads to late night bowling, you might consider why you love bowling so much. If you’re thinking about it right now, thinking I don’t even like bowling much less until two in the morning, you might consider why you’re still bowling. Also, if you do genuinely love to bowl until two in the morning, you might further consider if it interferes with any of your other chosen paths. Did you decide you actually care about college and college is a path you have chosen? Well, then you might save your two in the morning bowling sessions for times you don’t have class the next day. What do you want? There is no wrong answer to this question. I want you to be happy. I want you to choose a path that leads to your happiness.

In short (welcome to the letter those taking advantage of number three), the most important thing you can do as you begin to develop your life after high school is make sure you are careful about how you choose your paths. It needs to be you that chooses each path. There are no wrong answers to the questions you ask yourself about how you develop yourself, your life, and your future—as long as you are the one who answers those questions and you do so honestly. Do not choose any path if you are only following that path to please someone other than yourself. Do not simply do what your parents want, what your friends (sober and inebriated alike) want, what your guidance counselor wants, or what your society tells you to want. Follow your own paths. Choose your paths yourself. Find your own happiness.

*DISCLAIMER: (If you’re taking advantage of number three, you’re in the wrong paragraph. This is a disclaimer, and as such, is separate from the body of the letter in a vague sort of way. You should realize this, probably, but hey, you’re young, so if you don’t, just pop up to the paragraph before this paragraph that’s not really a paragraph, okay?) When I say you should follow your own paths, I do mostly mean this. However, if your path is to be a serial killer or produce bad music videos or wear spandex or hurt yourself or ruin other people’s lives or hate basketball, then you should ignore all my advice. If your path leads you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, then you’re my hero.*

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