11 Life Lessons to End the Term

*The following letter was written to one of my AP Government classes a few years ago.  A few edits have been made to remove any comments specific to the class.  Feel free to pass this along to anyone you see fit.

Hey guys/gals,

You are awesome and I want you to know that. You are a special group and I want to leave you with a few pointers/ideas/life lessons. This is a general list. Don’t take any of it too seriously, or make it your rules to live by. There’s a great chance that some of the things listed below won’t make sense to you just yet. It’s one of those things where you have to live some life to get it. Sorry. Life’s funny that way. So here’s the list:

  1. You’re awesome. Be confident in who you are. Individually, you are all more intellectually mature than I was coming out of high school. I know that you are moving into the big scary world of college. You are ready for this. I promise that you will meet people that are smarter than you. That’s ok. You don’t have to be the smartest person. Oddly enough, sometimes being the smartest person is a detriment. I also promise that you will be smarter than most. Enjoy that. Being smart isn’t everything. It’s definitely something, but it isn’t everything. There are a lot of brilliant people in prison. Be confident in your intelligence, but not cocky. I’ve found that, most of the time, being cocky backfires on you. That leads into #2…
  2. Sometimes it takes more courage and intelligence to be silent, than to speak. Better to be silent and thought ignorant than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Sorry for the quotes, but I can’t say it any better myself. It took me a long time to understand and respect silence. I’m still learning that it’s a mark of maturity and, most of the time, intelligence. Also, respect everyone’s differences. Challenge yourself to learn about them. Some of the best memories I have from college are from learning about other people’s cultures on my soccer team.
  3. Don’t stop learning. I don’t mean that in a teacher way…I mean it in a learning life sort of way. You are constantly growing/maturing/developing who you are. Enjoy that. Life is definitely a process. I don’t believe that anyone is immune to this. We all change our taste in music, food, tv, people, etc. It’s ok to change these preferences. Don’t try to fight it. Go with it. I wasted a lot of college trying to be someone I wasn’t because I thought I was supposed to be someone else. To complete #3, you need to invest in #4…
  4. Spend time with you. Since you’ve been in my class, I’ve learned that you’re awesome. If you sit and spend time with you, I think you’ll feel the same way. This was probably the toughest thing for me to do. I’m such a people person, but sometimes the best thing is alone time with great music, or a great book, or tv, or whatever. As cheesy as this sounds, be your best friend. As soon as you learn that you’re pretty awesome with all of your faults and idiosyncrasies, the sooner you will be a better person and enjoy life so much more. That leads to #5…
  5. Everyone has faults. With the advent of social media, I sometimes find myself comparing my faults to everyone else’s highlights. Think about it, if you scroll down your twitter feed, you see people lauding their accomplishments, great times, great friends, etc. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but if you compare all of your faults to this, you begin to feel a bit inadequate. Everyone has faults. Embrace your faults. Grow from them and know that your faults also add to what makes you you. And remember, you’re awesome.
  6. Surround yourself with people that love you and think you’re great…but also know your faults. You need this. Trust me. If someone won’t accept you for who you are, really ask yourself if you need that relationship, be it friends or more.
  7. Smile. Every. Day. I’m not getting into the psychology of it all, but it *could possibly* make you happier/healthier. Trust me.
  8. Don’t trust people just because they say, “trust me”.
  9. Trust people. It’s endearing.
  10. I’ve saved one of the most important for last…Be happy. Genuinely happy. Choose a profession that at least pays the bills and leaves you wanting to go to work most days. You won’t be happy every day. You will have bad days, weeks, and maybe even months. But be happy. Money will not, in the end, make you happy. No one has their net worth listed on their tombstone. One of the greatest pieces of advice my dad ever gave me was to make great memories. That’s all we’re doing in life, is making memories. Make them good ones. Also, remember that you are a part of other’s memories. Be positive memories.
  11. I have to end this the way my mother ended most of our conversations when I was in high school and college…make wise choices.

I love you guys. You’re awesome. My door is always open. When you come back to JC, come find me. I will be here. I will let you interrupt my class, but knock first. The door will be locked…stranger danger.

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