This may seem a little late, but I remember the summer after high school graduation-- it was fun. Your last fling with your high school friends. Party after party celebrating yourselves-- you made it through. Now life begins.
This is when you really need advice-- adulthood closing in around you. You're either leaving or everyone around you is.
Here's the only advice you need.
Just be you. You might not think you know who this "you" is -- adults LOVE to tell teenagers how much they don't know.
But you do.
You know you.
You know if you like mushrooms on pizza or not. You know right from wrong.
You don't know a lot about "stuff"- the importance of paying bills and the mundane aspects of life. You probably haven't traveled much. You probably haven't ventured much outside your faith or any faith. You probably haven't kissed too many people- or any.
That's all "stuff." It will help shape you and it's important.
But you do know you.
You know if you'd rather spend the night reading a book or raging at a party. You know if you like to do both.
Parents and adults are AWESOME at giving useless advice based on their bad choices.
Here are some of the worst pieces of advice I've heard- and all of them coming from a place of love.
Go to College or You'll Never Go
Total and complete bs.
"Skip years" are a thing now. I took one. I applied to college, deferred admission and spent a year as an exchange student in Ecuador. Life changer.
I know that if I had gone to college right after high school, I would have burned out and probably dropped out. I took a semester off as it was. I have a number of friends who never went back after burning out.
Some people go straight to college and nail it. I think having an education is priceless. If you're that person, go for it. But if you're ambivalent, that's okay. You know you. Have a plan, though. Parents like plans.
I don't think "college" is for everyone. I also think that some students- especially people like myself who were focused on grades, work, etc.- need a break from academia.
I had a plan to make sure I returned. And I remember when I almost took a turn off that plan and my boss at the bar where I worked told me in a profanity laced, grossly impactful tirade to get my happy ass to Cornell and get the hell out of there. There was more to the tirade and I remember it almost verbatim, but thank you, Shirley. I owe you.
There's a difference between being scared- even after I spent a year in a country where I didn't speak the language I was still terrified the day my dad dropped me off at college-- but if your gut is saying "Hey, I have no idea what I want to do..." then see if you can stay at home, work in a field that you're interested in working for a career-- maybe take a class or two online or at a regional school- or if you can't get a paying job in the field, find a paying job and do a free internship.
This is the time in your life to try things.
You're 18. You're not supposed to. know what you want to spend your life doing.
If You Go to College, Study a Field with Career Options
This one drives me nuts.
Go to college to get an education. To learn to think. To learn to learn. To study things that broaden your mind and show you the world.
Don't study accounting because it offers a good career. Study accounting because you enjoy it. You think that's not real? I LOVED my accounting classes. I only had to take 1 in college- I took 3. We exist. I loved how everything balanced out. It's like art to me.
Don't let anyone tell you you won't be able to get a job out of college. If you're looking for a job, go to a tech school. I don't mean that as a slam to tech schools, either-- they are great for training you to do a specific job. If you know what you want to do, it's a fantastic choice. There's a shortage of tradespeople as well- plumbing, electrical work, welding- they pay extremely well. If you want a good job that's a far better choice than a degree in "business" which will get you nothing.
Also, newsflash- very few people work in the fields that they study. Obviously, if you want to go to medical school, you need to take certain courses. But I know art history majors who manage investment portfolios or are political activists. Graduate school is when you narrow it down. But undergrad? Study everything. Learn as much as you can. Meet people. It's all part of the process.
I know so many people that are in careers that they hate because they checked a box at 17 when they applied to college.
Plus, most of the jobs you'll be doing don't even exist yet. Learn to think and you can do anything.
Again, be you.
These are the Best Days of your Life
I remember sitting at my graduation- beautiful day- and speaker after speaker talked about how these memories are our best ones... the great times we had...
And I thought "I hope this isn't the best it gets because I'm screwed..."
I hope you enjoyed high school. For some people, they did peak. But once you leave that building anything that you were is the past and you have a blank slate for the rest of your life. It's why graduation is called commencement- it's the beginning, not an end.
I drove to the Quiki-Mart after graduation, got a slushie and went home. I went to a few, not many graduation parties, hung out with my boyfriend and worked over the summer. I have stayed in touch with quite a few people from high school, but honestly, only a handful know anything about my real life-- and they aren't the ones I thought I'd stay in touch with. Most of them became close friends after high school. Except my friend Marvin. We've been close since kindergarten and if I ever ran for public office, I'd have to pay him off because of that...
My life got infinitely better after graduation. I met people from all over the world. I saw new places. I tried new things. I owned my life. It's empowering, scary and consequential. But it's my own unique path. I'm not someone's child or some box that someone put me in because I had a certain test score in 2nd grade. No one cares about who you were- they care about who you are.
I enjoyed high school. I joke that I stayed in touch with my teachers more than people from my class, but I have no animosity or hang ups about it. I even got crap about it from my friends in college "Wait- you LIKED high school??" I did. But it was Chapter 1 in what I hope is a long a novel. I picked up some good tools and had a good foundation, but it's a part, not the entirety of me.
Now you get to be the real you. And it's really cool.
The Choices You Make Now Will Impact your Life
Tattoos, committing felonies and having kids, yes. The rest.. meh. Even a failed marriage can be overcome. Bad credit only lasts7 years.
This is the best time to screw up big. Because you ALWAYS have time for a do over. Try a career you want. It's not like there's a time line or a finish line you have to reach. You want to write? Write. You want to be in a rock band? Go for it. It's a lot easier now than when you're 35 with kids and a mortgage.
You hate your job? Find another one. You don't need to stay 2 years to prove anything. You never get those 2 years back.
I had a friend say she thought it was cool that I didn't care what anyone ever thought about my decisions.
I remember thinking "How odd that anyone would... it's my life. Hmmm...."
So in short, just be you. Develop your beliefs. Live your life. Follow that internal compass. Listen to yourself.
You're going to mess it up. You will. And you'll get up, roll your eyes at all the people that said "I told you so" and get on with it.
Congratulations on Chapter 1-The Childhood.
May your next chapters be filled with love, adventure and friendship.