High school’s sure changed a lot in the last thirty years. Back then I used to think programming the Commodore 64 to scroll my name in a loop was a big deal…but I have a feeling the important bits haven’t changed that much. Some stuff is definitely harder (the omnipresence of social media), and some easier (information at your fingertips). But there’s a lot more to high school than just Shakespeare and trig. And I have a feeling that the actual growing up stuff, the pain of learning to swim through the waves of pheromones and cheap after shave stuff?
Same as it ever was.
So as you get ready to embark upon your own high school years, there are some important things I need you to know.
Who you are now? It’s not who you’re going to be when you graduate, not what you’re going to be when you go out #adulting into the world. Take your time to set and gel. Jiggle and jive. Try new things. Basically? Stay loose, Ponyboy.
If you want to impress girls? Carry tampons with you. Half the world’s population bleeds once a month and, like life, sometimes it catches you off guard. Until your mother finishes advocating for free tampons in every public restroom, not only is it the right thing to do, I guarantee you that some day there will be a woman telling a story who remembers the boy who had a tampon when she needed one.
Trust your gut. Trust that squirmy feeling inside, the one that feels like spiders in your veins, because nine times out of ten, it’s right.
If it’s on social media dude, that means it’s for public consumption, including your mother and your grandmother. Think before you post. And that shit? It’s there forever, no matter what someone else tells you.
Relationships are oh-so complex. The easiest way to navigate them is to be true to yourself. Don’t say you’re going to call or Snapchat or whatever it is you kids do if you’re not going to. Be honest, be kind, be respectful. Remember those things and you’ll go far.
Listen to the people around you who walk through life differently. Not just ‘be quiet’. Actively listen between the lines. You’ll be amazed what you hear.
Check your privilege at the door. You’re a white male, growing up with every opportunity and privilege life can bestow upon you. You didn’t earn it. You don’t deserve it, nor are you entitled to it. It was a happy accident of birth. Never, ever forget that.
There are always going to be people who have the things that you want. Always. The clothes, the car, the trip, the girlfriend, the video game your mother won’t let you play. Be envious, wish it was you, stomp your foot and pout. For ten minutes. Then remember the point above and move on.
You don’t need to treat girls or women special or differently because they’re female. You need to treat them like people and equals because they’re people and equals.
Put the extra 5-10 minutes in. More often than not the difference between a B and an A, an acceptance or rejection, a yes or a no is a measly 5 to 10 minutes a day.
Your words have power. If you use them to harm someone, you’d better be ready to accept the consequences.
Learn how and when to apologize. You’re going to need to, and knowing how and when to do it is an important skill in life.
Keep your cursing to your peer group. If I don’t know about it, I can’t do anything about it. But I guarantee you that if you start throwing f-bombs and d-bags with aplomb, around younger kids, or adults, it’s going to get back to me and then Houston, we’ve got a problem.
Know you can always, always, always call us for a ride home or if you’re in a situation you can’t handle. I can’t promise you we won’t be pissed about it the next day, but I can promise you that we will come and get you, or give you an easy out, no questions asked.
If you’re doing something you’re not supposed to do in front of people you’re not supposed to be doing it in front of, it’s going to get back to me. I’m not going to tell you how. Then I’d have to kill you.
People are going to expect a lot of you….and yet still treat you like a kid. It’s confusing and confounding and exasperating. In the musicalized words of Alexander Hamilton, it’s time to #RiseUp. No, it’s not always fair, but neither is life, mein liebchen.
You’re going to say or do or wear the wrong thing. The best gift I can give you is this: the people you want around you are the ones that forget and/or forgive. The ones who like to rub your face in it? Ditch them.
Learn how to ask for help. No one gets every single thing on the first try. Or even the 100th. Learning how to ask for help when you need it is a skill that will serve you well in life.
There are going to be expectations that weigh you down. You’re stronger than you think. Your shoulders can bear a lot of weight. Learn to bend, not to break and never doubt there’s a net to fall into if you need it.
Don’t spend the next four years wishing it away to get to ‘next’. Life’s not a video game. You don’t need to level up all the time.
Pay attention. To the pregnant woman on the bus who looks like she could use a seat. To the friend who seems ‘off’. To the kid who’s sitting alone, to the world around you.
Finally, yes, YOLO. But know this: if you do dumb, risky shit? The “once” in YOLO is in danger of being very, short.
Stay gold, my Ponyboy.