With high school graduations approaching, I thought it might be fitting to share what I would say to out-bound seniors – if I were given the opportunity ...
You have now met or exceeded the state’s minimum requirements for graduation. For some, it may have been quite a challenge, and your efforts deserve to be applauded. Others may have skated through without issue, and for that - congratulations. Either way, you all have a lot left to learn. A lot.
First, remember what you learned way back in the day, when you were four or so. Apply those things now - they tend to be pretty important. You are the owner of yourself, and no one else. Don’t use force or coercion against any other person, for any reason. Be a peaceful, kind, caring human being.
Think for yourself. For the past twelve years you’ve been force-fed material to absorb and spit back out at test time. You’ve been taught what the state thought you should know. Believe me, there is a whole universe out there full of more information - other sides of the story, controversial books, events and issues not even mentioned in school. How long did you spend learning about what happened at Kent State in US History? Ten minutes? Maybe?
I don’t think we covered it at all.
I guess my point here is you’ve only been exposed to a tiny, tiny fraction of what has – and is – happening with the world, so learn for yourself.
In relation to that, economics is way more important and relevant than you were led to believe. I passed the economics final with flying colors. Want to know what I remember from that class? Something about stock markets, Adam Smith, and the difference between macro and micro. That’s it. Heads up – go sign out F. A. Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” from the library, just as a starting point.
Maintain a healthy distrust of anyone who has not yet earned your trust. Peacefully and respectfully question the motives and actions of those who may be attempting to take advantage of you and be aware of the groups and individuals doing so already.
Grow your own food. Do you know what’s in the food you eat now? If you can’t pronounce it, you might want to think twice before putting it in your body. If you don’t plant a garden, buy your food from farmers who do. Also, learn how to cook.
You’re young, and probably won’t make the wisest decisions. No worries, I’m 24 and still don’t make the best choices. We’re human. At any rate, know your rights. If you are approached by an officer and you have committed no crime, simply ask if you are being detained, and if you are not, you can calmly leave. Be sure to ask for the officer’s name and badge (or ID) number. If you are being detained, be sure to ask what law you’ve violated. Become familiar with the penal code. You cannot legally be detained without having committed a crime (unless the officer has “reasonable suspicion” you’ve committed a crime). You have the right to not consent to a search. It is also lawful to document interactions with police officers (public officials), and since your smartphone is probably attached to you at all times anyway, use it to record (some officers may use intimidation to deter such conduct, but it is legal. It might be a good idea to let them know you’re recording, and make it clear your recording device is not a weapon and that they are safe). If you’re arrested, you can remain silent, ask for a lawyer and say nothing else. They’re trained to trip you up and manipulate you to obtain information – be aware of this. There’s more to things like this, but research it for yourself so you’re informed.
Travel. Cliche, yes ... but do it. Take road-trips to concerts, festivals, conventions, whatever interests you. Get a passport - leave the country. See as much of this beautiful world as you’d like. Help out in one of the many countries where aid is needed.
Save some money, yet donate to causes and people you believe in. Volunteer your time.
Babies can be cute, but cost a lot of money. Be responsible and know your options on that front. People generally aren’t too thrilled when the fruits of their labor are taken from them to support children parents create but aren’t able to support. Contraception is important. When you’re ready for the responsibility, go for it – and take plenty of photos of the child, he or she will appreciate that when they’re older.
Have dance parties ... often. In your car, your dorm room, apartment, a field, the woods ... dance around and play your music loud.
Hang out with your family, you’re an adult now ... it’s cool. Become friends with your parents.
Know that you’ll fail, but that’s just how things go sometimes. Don’t give up. Whatever you choose as a career path – don’t let it define you. Live for a living.
Spoken word artist Sarah Kay said, “This life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.”
You might be headed off to college, you might be starting a job, you might not have the slightest clue what you’re going to do next, but don’t let this vast universe intimidate you. You’re a big kid now – in control of yourself and your life – do something important or do something miniscule; just do something. The world you’re entering into as an adult is in rough shape ... with some effort, things can change.
You’re done with high school, but I really hope now more than ever you are interested in learning, because while the past four years were the tip of the iceberg, you’re most likely not prepared for “real life.” Become informed, become involved, remember to be nice, keep dancing, and breathe.
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