Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry


How do you write about your youngest graduating from high school without producing something soaked in clichés and syrupy schmaltz? Beats me. But I couldn’t let it just go by, any more than I did with her sister – to say it’s a major milestone in a person’s life is like saying the stimulus package spent a few bucks.

Finally I decided to go for … clichés and syrupy schmaltz. I’m not sure what schmaltz is – maybe it’s the nickname for the malts used in making Schlitz beer.

Jillian has gotten out of the habit of reading my columns, so I could relate pretty much any embarrassing incident without fear of retribution. Still, maybe I’ll stick to that old, hidebound tradition of giving advice. I know what you’re thinking: Why give her advice when she doesn’t read this anyway?

Well, why not? It’s not as if she’d listen to me if she was reading.

Jillian, for many years you were my friend as much as my daughter. Your sister went off and made her own life, but you were stuck with me. Gilmore Girls style, we went to the movies together, watched the same TV shows, took road trips long and short, and generally bantered our way through your teen years. Not good parenting, but I never claimed to be a good parent. Now I have a girlfriend, and I’ve always been okay with spending time alone, anyway. Still, you’ll probably hear more than one emoish whine about trips to the drive-in, late night Wal-Mart runs, and who the heck will be there to yell in frustration when Lost throws yet another plot twist at us?

Ignore me.

This is the part where the music swells up and I give an inspiring/funny speech about wearing sunscreen. Frankly, I don’t feel overly pressured about that; as I said (and as the sunscreen guy originally said), you’re not going to listen, anyway. So here’s my real advice, to all graduates:

Don’t move out. It’s a scary world; stay home as long as possible, save on rent and utility bills. If your parents try to make you strike out on your own, pout.

Stay in college as long as possible. Take every class and every new educational opportunity for each minute that government loans allow. Some people live in college until they’re old enough for retirement, and is it really all that bad? Sure, you’ll eventually graduate with little knowledge of how real life works, but by that time there’s a possibility you’ll get hired as a college professor. It’s the circle of academic life.

Getting the education toward a good career is just gravy. Mainly, stay in college so you don’t have to throw yourself on the mercy of the job market. College classes are more difficult than high school, but compared to most real jobs they’re like swilling martinis at the Playboy Mansion.

Many capable people are out there taking taxpayer money for accomplishing nothing, without as much as a twinge on their conscience. (Sure, some are welfare cheats, but I’m mostly talking about politicians.) If I’ve raised you to be any kind of person at all, you’re going to want a real career, which means sending half your pay to bureaucracies that think you’re a human ATM machine. Delay that, and repaying government loans, as long as possible.

When you go out into the real world you’re going to discover several things that you think you already know, but that you’re really in denial about:

Life is not fair. Saying it should be doesn’t change that.

Most people never attain their dreams. (See above.) Follow them anyway. A life without dreams is pointless, and there’s a difference between a realist and a defeatist.

Have a backup plan. Most of us won’t be rock stars: There are too many applicants for too few positions. If you’re willing to put the work into it, shoot for rock stardom anyway – but if you have to work your way up the management ladder at McDonalds to pay for guitar lessons and speakers, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Conversely, a job is about more than money. Which is better: a job you hate that pays for your new Mustang, or a job you love that barely pays enough to keep you in ramen noodles? You’re going to spend half your waking hours at your job: Taking one you hate to pay the bills may be a stop-gap measure, but it’s no life. Take business classes, practice your drums, work on your novel, and never stop trying.

No one can tell you when to give up, unless you let them. That’s for you to decide.

In this life you’re going to meet people who gave up on their dreams and are bitter, full of hate, and eager to strip your dreams away, too. If you can, avoid them. You’re Dorothy Gale and they’re a field of poppies, trying to put you to sleep. If you have to spend any time with them – and you’re certain to have one as a boss, at some point – it doesn’t matter if you decide to succeed despite them, or because of them, or to show them it’s still possible – it only matters that you succeed.

Hm. Now that I think on it, go through life the way Dorothy went through Oz. In the book, Dorothy stepped into the unknown with hope and determination, maintained her good attitude, knew who her friends were and relied on them, and accomplished the tasks given her no matter how unsavory.

Where was I? Oh yes, advice that you won’t listen to. Wear sunscreen. That’s been done, hasn’t it? Okay, let’s wrap this up with don’t borrow money unless you have to, avoid credit cards like the plague they are, learn something new every day, and have either a job or a hobby that allows creativity, to keep your mind exercised.

Finally, you’ll know people who drown in excess: Those who want to help everyone in the world, and those who want to help only themselves. You’ll go crazy if you try to save the whole world. Just save your little part of it.

People who care only about themselves -- drug dealers, politicians, and so on -- are poison. If they’re in a position to poison others, it’s your duty to throw the bums out, whether it’s by voting, or volunteering within your community, or being a masked vigilante, or whatever. You need to care about something bigger than yourself.

I suppose I should finish with something stirring and inspirational, but you probably stopped reading at the first “sunscreen”. If you do happen to get this far, remember that friends come and go, but family is forever.

I told you it was a scary world.

(Photo by her sister, Charis!)
Jillian grad


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 26th, 2009 10:38 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it! Whether Jillian will ever get around to reading it or not remains to be seen, but if it does contain sage words, she won't appreciate them until she's much older!
(Deleted comment)
May. 27th, 2009 04:41 am (UTC)
You said it!
May. 26th, 2009 12:04 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful young woman. Many congratulations! And the advice? Wise and priceless. :-)
May. 27th, 2009 04:42 am (UTC)
Thanks! And thanks!
May. 26th, 2009 12:32 pm (UTC)
May. 27th, 2009 04:43 am (UTC)
May. 26th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
I wish I had you around as my parent when I graduated. :)
May. 27th, 2009 04:44 am (UTC)
I'd adopt you, but I was hoping for a vacation from parenting! :-)
May. 26th, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC)
She's gorgeous! If you two have been buddies all along...you have nothing to worry about. She'll do just fine!!
May. 27th, 2009 04:44 am (UTC)
Boy, I sure hope so ... but if she can survive my family, she can survive anything!
May. 26th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
Sagely stuff there...

And what a lovely picture.
May. 27th, 2009 04:45 am (UTC)
Isn't it great? I'm so jealous of Charis -- I studied and practiced, but she's a better photographer than me without trying!
May. 26th, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC)
What a great column, Mark. Thanks for sharing it with us. Congrats to your daughter and to you, the proud papa.
May. 27th, 2009 04:46 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it, and thanks!
May. 27th, 2009 12:35 am (UTC)
Pretend I'm talking like a black woman
FIrst of all, I read them when they really matter. Second of all, I know it doesn't seem like it but I have been told that I am wise beyond my years. Everything you tryed to teach me in that column I have already learned. Most of these things I have learned through other people's mistakes as well as my own. (Like when I forgot my sunscreen at the cottage.) I'm not saying that I won't lose hope every once in a while. I'm not saying that I'm not going to have to fight my way to the top. I'm not saying I'm not going to make tons of mistakes. But, the point is to learn, right? The world is a big scary place, but I'm ready to be out there doing my part. I'm ready to begin my life. I know that life isn't fair and I'm not in denial. Seriously, life has been pretty cruel to me already. I get it. And I know it isn't finished having it's fun. I'm stronger than you think. Much more stronger then I let on. I'm up for the challenge. And you're challenge is to let me go and if I have to run back crying for my daddy take me in with open loving arms for a while then give me a swift kick in the butt and tell me to get my ass back out there. Are you up for it?
May. 27th, 2009 05:11 am (UTC)
Re: Pretend I'm talking like a black woman
Hey, look who checked in! You told me you didn't read my columns anymore! (Of course, the title may have attracted your attention.)

No, I'm not too worried about you picking up on the big things in life, but it's a parent's job to give advise whether their kids take it, need it, or not. You've got a lot of the life points down, and I'm well aware that, like me, you've learned many of them the hard way. I'm more worried about you managing some of the little things, like cooking without blowing yourself up, picking up after yourself, and time management -- you know, the things I've failed at myself. I do hope you realize that this column wasn't intended to suggest you're going out unprepared for life -- how could you be unprepared when you've survived us? At the same time, remember that an awfully lot of people your age really haven't realized some of the things I spoke about, and in some cases won't figure those things out until they're a lot older.

So, a challenge, huh? *does that triple finger snap thing* Oh, it's on now! I'll give as many swift kicks as necessary. Of course, you're always welcome back here for as long as you need to be, even if it means me not getting my office back. :-) But I know you ... you might come running back every once in awhile, but you've got plans of your own and you won't stay on the sidelines for long. We're both up for it!
May. 27th, 2009 01:06 am (UTC)
Congratulations, Jillian!

My baby leaves school this term too, though it's a rather more drawn-out process without a specific ceremony over here.

We aren't old enough for this, Mark. Get me a TARDIS, stat!
May. 27th, 2009 04:48 am (UTC)
No, we're not, are we? But congrats to all our babies, for surviving having such young parents!
May. 27th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
What a beautiful daughter! (Two beautiful daughters!)

I loved this: "there’s a difference between a realist and a defeatist" I wish more people understood this, especially more people in charge of getting our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews... ready to go out into the world.

(My oldest niece graduated from college last week. My only nephew is half way through. My youngest niece will be a senior in high school. When did we get old enough for this??)
May. 27th, 2009 04:50 am (UTC)
We're not old enough for this! Something has gone horribly, horribly wrong with the timeline ...

Aren't they, though? And thanks! and yes, I agree ...
May. 27th, 2009 11:19 am (UTC)
Aw, you two! You've both got me crying this morning. Best of wishes to the new graduate. She's a lovely girl, Mark. You both did well.
Jun. 2nd, 2009 08:13 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks! And she is, isn't she? :-)
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

November 2019


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow