Dear Class of 2014,
You’re graduating. Congratulations. So end the easiest days of your life.
Because now school is done. You’re an adult. And life starts.
It’s not going to be easy. It will be fun and awesome and shitty and hard.
And it will be the latter things more often than it needs to be if you aren’t prepared.
Below are some thoughts—what I think most people are either afraid to say or don’t actually understand—that will hopefully help you with what comes next.
-If deciding between two things, pick the one that will teach you more over the one that will pay you more.
-Your degree means nothing except to signal that you’re probably not totally brain dead. It does not qualify you for anything. Let this set your expectations and entitlements.
-While a student, plenty of people wanted to help you. Why? Because they were either paid to or because they did not see you as a threat. As of today, you are now officially a “threat” to most of the working population. If you did not take advantage of your unique status as a student to learn and make connections—sorry, you wasted a big opportunity. Because now you’re on your own.
-You are probably crazy. I mean this nicely. At this age, especially with our generation of parents, we are all balls of anxiety, stupidity, bad impulses, bad assumptions and emotions we don’t fully understand. Work on that. The number one reason you won’t be successful is because you get in your own way.
-Exercise. Don’t get fat, unhealthy, lazy.
-Start thinking of your big plans. Not to say you have to actually know exactly what you want and need to do, but if you don’t even have the vaguest vision of where you see yourself in the future, how are you going to know what to say Yes or No to?
-Don’t buy a house, even if your parents will help you. Don’t think about buying a house any time soon. Figure out what you like in life, figure out what you need in a city, stay flexible. God knows the opportunities you may have to soon pass up because you already put roots (a down payment) down.
-Same goes for having a nice car. Pretend you’re still poor. The less you own right now, the more you can own and do in the future. Because you won’t be weighed down.
-Avoid credit card debt at all costs.
-Oh, you’re thinking about doing some travel? That’s great. I have to ask: what do you think entitles you to this? What exactly are you taking a break from? Are you really traveling or are you just partying and doing the same bullshit you always do on a different continent?
-Your salary does not say something about you as a person. Especially whatever your first offer is. It will get bigger over time, that’s how it works. And even then it doesn’t mean anything (though money is nice).
-Maybe you got a great job lined already: Google. Goldman. Amazon. Good for you. That’s tough. But understand that they aren’t hiring you for your talents. They are hiring you because you are body that they can use to throw at a big problem or big market. They will chew you up and spit you out when they are done. Unless you plan ahead.
-It’s going to be hard out there. For the love of God, resist the opportunity to run a) right home to your parents b) right back to college (that is: another degree). It’s supposed to be hard. Experience that hardship, even if only for a little bit. Learn from it. Then decide.
-Again, do.not.move.back.home. Pretend it wasn’t an option (because it isn’t for a lot of people). If you have to live in a shithole of an apartment, so? It doesn’t matter if they’re cool or if it saves you money. It’s time to be an adult.
-Go back and visit campus sometimes. Those crappy restaurants and your old friends will always been important to you.
-Relax. It’s going to be fine. All of it.
Look, you’re now a graduate. Whether that’s college or high school, you’ve accomplished something by making it through all four years.
It’s not a huge thing, but it’s a thing.
Now lies more things. As the Haitians say, behind mountains lay more mountains.
That is to say, it’s never over. But if you can enjoy the struggle and the difficulties, you’ll have a hell of a time.
Best of luck.