Letters to a Grad

Instagram Message: Find my blog for the letter I'd write this 17 yr old now that I know what I know now. 

Instagram Message: Find my blog for the letter I'd write this 17 yr old now that I know what I know now. 


As I receive graduation announcements for the class of 2016, I can’t help but feel so far removed from the whole graduating scene. I graduated high school in 1987.  Do you know how long ago that was?  I am completely clueless about what it’s like to be a young adult/teenager these days.  What kinds of celebrations occur for high school or college grads?  Besides money, do they expect anything else as gifts? 

For my high school graduation I didn’t even know what college I was going to so I couldn’t name it in my announcements.  Although I was already accepted to San Diego State University, I was waiting to see if I was accepted to the University of San Diego (I didn’t find out until August).  Besides being thrilled to be done with school, I couldn’t remember anything else about graduating.  So I looked thru a photo album and saw pictures of Powder Puff (senior girls vs junior girls football game), the end of the year Dance Team party, Senior Ditch Day, Yearbook Day (when we just sat around signing yearbooks) graduation parties etc. Damn, these were the best few weeks of my life!  How could I forget all this?  Besides money, I cannot tell you what else I got for graduation. Nowadays with Pintrest there are so many fun ways to give a grad money or thoughtful pinches that never existed 29 years ago. I kept searching the site because I wanted to see if anyone gave a brutally honest send off. You know, something besides a cap and gown piggy bank or a lei made of candy. Not that there’s anything wrong with those thoughtful pinches - they are wonderful - but I was looking for something like a letter I came across years ago. Although the language is kind of crude, you could still sense the genuine care this person had for the grad.  Who else would take the time out to write such a letter? Plus, it seems like the writer knew exactly what he was saying because he lived it.  How thoughtful to share this in a letter in hopes of preventing a loved one from falling in some traps. I saved this letter because if my son doesn’t get a letter like this I’m giving him this one for sure!

June 2, 2009

XXX, congrats on a productive 4 years of high school and for being the 2nd best to graduate from XXX.  I am very proud of your accomplishments but do think you left some work on the table at XXX. Remember to push yourself at the next level and be your own man. Anyone can party and get by in college but those who succeed tend to compete and challenge themselves more.  It doesn’t matter if you play sports or not just make sure you are 100% committed in whatever you do. Try to immerse yourself in your school and take advantage of all the activities it has to offer.  Thousands of college grads are struggling and out of work so think hard about what will set you apart.  XXX you are a very talented young man with a promising future.  I made a lot of mistakes in college and I’m sure you will too.  Try to learn from your mistakes and never lose sight of your goals. Get the most out of college (wherever you end up) and don’t sell yourself short.


Uncle XXX

PS…I tried to make it out for your graduation but have too much going on with work and XXX baptism…I will take you out when I’m in town.

XXX Tips for College:

•    Don’t let pussy consume you; you’ll be whipped for most of your life so enjoy your freedom while you can

•    If you punch the kitty then wear a gimmie

•    Feeding the ducks is much easier and less of a headache

•    Be a leader and not a follower

•    Always maintain control; you’ll have lots of freedom in college and its very easy to get off track

•    Don’t be that guy at the party that everyone is laughing at

•    NEVER drink and drive and no to drugs; one bad trip can ruin your life (XXX)

•    Be careful who you hang with; there are a lot of slap dicks out there and the company you keep is a representation of yourself

•    If you work hard it’s ok to play hard

•    The easy route is usually the wrong route

•    The work you do when no one is watching separates the winners from losers

•    Set goals and have a plan

•    College goes quick so think long term and big picture and most importantly have fun

So I started to think, if I were to write a letter to my 17 year old self today, my pearls of wisdom would probably contain the usual “follow your dreams” or “the world is yours” lines in it but then I’d add stuff like, “Even though you can eat whenever you want and whatever you want, the freshman 15 will come back to haunt you. Not worth the drama.”  Or “If it’s past midnight and a frat guy tells you that you’re hot, even if you are, most likely he's needy.”  Or “Don’t be the girl that wakes up with permanent marker written all over your body.” Or “Make friends with the kid who’s parents let their freshmen have a car on campus. That person will need you more than you need them.” Or “Just like high school, you’re going to need the nerds more than you need the cool kids, so get used to hanging with both.” And of course, “If it doesn’t taste like there’s alcohol in it, beware, you are setting yourself up for NEVER drinking that liquor EVER again.” (At forty-six I'm still saying no to Bacardi, Goldschlager or Jaegermeister.)  

The funny thing is if I were to write my 17 year old self who was going to SDSU not USD (which was a dry, Catholic campus) it would be a totally different letter. Crude language? Like, for sure! 

Happy Graduation to all the grads!  




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