Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Advice to today's High Schoolers

Inspired by Mama Kay's Pretty Much World Famous Writer's Workshop 

High School 

It was either the best time of your life or the worst time of your life 

You either miss it or could not be happier it is over 

You either keep in touch with your high school friends or have not seen them since the day you graduated 

Good, bad or indifferent, High School is a rite of passage we all go through

To today's High Schoolers, I offer a few pieces of advice:

Do not wish away your youth; being a grown up is overrated
Don't try to act older than you are, this is the same as wishing your youth away 
And when you do finally hit the age you were trying to be at 15, you're going to wish you were 15 again 

Share your workspace/lunch table with whomever comes your way 
Someday, it could be you looking for a friendly face and a place to sit 

If you need help, no matter what you need help with, ask 
I don't care if it’s from a teacher, a friend, a parent, another family member, a coach, just ask for help when you need it, you do not have to do this alone
If you know the answer, raise your hand 
Don't be a know it all, but do not hide your smartness, your greatness, or your knowledge

It is OK to make mistakes, just learn from those mistakes
Do not try to cover the mistakes you make up - just own them 
And do not make excuses 
Peer pressure will hit you from every angle: pressure to join a club, tryout for sports, to smoke, to drink, to kiss, to have sex, to do something you know deep down inside you should not do 
And sometimes, you will be able to resist peer pressure
Sometimes you won't 
It is OK for you to say No 
And sometimes, it is OK for you to say Yes 
But whatever decision you make, make sure it is your decision......
And that you are prepared to live with the consequences of that decision 

If you do decide to drink, DO NOT GET BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A CAR 
And if someone you are with decides to drink, DO NOT GET INTO A CAR WITH THEM 
Call your parents, let them come pick you up 
Sure, they'll probably be pretty upset with you and yep, maybe you'll get grounded or will lose some privileges 
But it is better than losing use of your limbs, or worse, your life 
And trust me, they will not be as angry as you think they will be
If you can't call your parents, call a sober responsible adult you trust 
I am such a person for my friend’s kids, and they have called me more than once 
And their parents are ever so grateful they did
I don't tell the parents anything except I have their teenager and they are safe
I leave it up to the kids to tell, or not tell, their parents 
Guys - No means No  
Girls - if you mean No, say No
Let me also say it this way:
Girls - No means No 
Guys - if you mean No, say No 
That's right, it goes both ways 
Again, apply this to your whole life
Do not take pictures of yourself in compromising positions 
And do not allow pictures like that of you to be taken by someone else 
And let me be specific: in my day, it would have been a picture of us smoking or drinking a beer or throwing toilet paper in the trees of our teacher's yard 
Nowadays, a compromising picture includes all that AND pictures of yourself/or random body parts with and without clothes on 
You may think those photos are private 
You are wrong 
And if you receive such a photo of someone else, do the right thing: do not forward that photo
Delete it 
Do not share it in any way shape or form.... think about how you would feel if it were a picture of yourself you received....
I will not tell you to be yourself - most of you probably don't even know who you truly are yet 
Hell, I'm well into my 40s and am still finding myself 
Instead, try everything at least once
And by that, I don't mean all the vices in life 
I mean go out for the school play, the Team (whatever team it is), and join the Clubs that seem like they may be fun and interesting 
Submit a piece for the Art Show 
Take Chemistry instead of Biology 
Join the band or the choir or both!
Take Greek if it is offered instead of French or Spanish 
Just try everything - and if it suits you, if it is fun, if it makes you smile and challenges you and brings you a sense of fulfillment, keep doing it 
This is how you will figure out who you are 
And this is how you will become you 
Show the same respect to the custodian as you do to the principal/headmaster of your school; they both work hard and are there to keep your learning environment healthy, safe and clean 
Again, apply this to your grown-up professional life as well 
Quick story: my first job out of college was for a Fortune 500 company in Illinois. We occupied 10 floors of a 15-story building. I got to know the cleaning crew who took care of our floor (there were two crews for the 10 floors, about 6 people per crew) 
On my third day, I stayed late and introduced myself to them...and by that, I mean I was sitting at my desk crying because I was scared and overwhelmed
The crew came in and politely ignored me until I looked at one of the women and said please tell me it gets better?!
She promised me it would and sat with me for twenty minutes while I ugly cried and snot ran down my face 
When they took their break, they invited me to join them for dinner
I stayed and they became my first "work friends" talking me off the ledge and giving me much needed encouragement
I started having dinner with them at least once a week and learned the names of everyone on both crews
At holidays, I'd leave them baked goods and little gifts
When it was someone's birthday, I'd get a cake or cupcakes, a bunch of balloons and a card
I'd leave their "birthday" on my desk (or stick around if I could to celebrate) as a surprise
On my birthday, they'd decorate my desk
And my area was always a bit cleaner than everyone else's
If I worked late, one of the guys always walked me to my car
And in the winter, when I would go to leave, my car was already cleared of the snow and ice the daytime storm had dropped on it
Not quite 2 years into that job, I was up for a promotion; there were 8 of us going for 1 spot
It was a coveted position for which you had to be nominated to even interview for the role
Not only was there more money but more exposure and visibility as you'd be working at the Campus which was where our corporate headquarters were located .... which meant you got the green badge which allowed you access to ALL our buildings across the region
When I was awarded the promotion, the VP (who a few months later became the CEO of our Division of the Company) told the story of why I was awarded the role
He said he could not decide between three of us: I had less experience than the other two but, a couple of the managers were really pushing for me given my performance thus far
The VP could not decide, he consulted a CEO friend of his.
As luck would have it, this CEO knew me. 
I did not know he knew me, nor did I know I knew him 
Turns out, one of the guys on the cleaning crew I was having dinner with weekly was said CEO – specifically, he the owner/founder of the Cleaning Company
He used to clean with the crew because our company gave him his first break into the industry
He said cleaning with the crew not only reminded him of where he came from but what his people needed to do their jobs well
And because of the way I treated he and his crew, he was convinced I would be the right person for the role
He said, if I treated the cleaning crew like this, the employees who would be working for me would be treated with the same amount of respect 
And when employees are respected, they are happier
And when employees are happy, they are better at their jobs
And when employees are better at their job, the profits look better
And when the profits are better, we all benefit
So be respectful of everyone, you never know who is who or who knows who....
Write shit down - you will not remember half as much as you think you will
Be organized - with your time and your stuff
Mind your manners
Say please and thank you 
Hold the door open for the person behind you 
And if someone drops their books, help them pick it up 
Make eye contact, smile, say hello 
Being cool, dorky, funny, too serious, uptight, ugly, pretty, too fat, too thin, too this, too that....is all a matter of opinion 
What goes around comes around 
Also known as karma
So be nice 
It is that simple, just be nice 
Don't talk about people behind their backs
And if people talk about you behind your back, they are not friends 
If you don't have something nice to say, try not to say anything at all 
And if you do say something that is not nice (and you will), apologize 
When I was in high school, there was this guy who had a huge crush on me 
He went out on a limb and told me 
We went out on a few dates, but I blew it because I did not know how to react
When he gave me his senior picture it simply read, I’m in love with you, what else can I say?
I still did not know how to react
So, I didn't 
I wish I had 
And I still regret that
I may not have grown up to marry him, but I betcha he would be one helluva a friend to have as an adult 
So, if someone goes out on a limb with you and tells you how they feel, be honest with them
Even if being honest means saying, I have no idea how I feel …. because they have gone out on a limb and that is the hardest thing to do
I got made fun of in junior high school 
A lot 
For all kinds of reasons
I pretended not to care, and I never really said anything/told anyone 
When I got to high school, that continued
I still never really said anything/told anyone
Instead, I in turn made fun of people 
Don't fall into that cycle 
Avoid it at all costs because by the time you leave, you won't have as many friends as you think you do 
Remember, the first step is the hardest to take - once you take it, it will get easier 
And then it may get harder, but then it will get easier 
That cycle will repeat itself all though life 
So just be ok with the fact that sometimes, it will be hard 
And sometimes, it will be easy 
It will only be as hard as you let it be 
And it will always be easy if you remember to just have fun 
Pay attention in class and take notes
If someone asks to share your notes, because they were out sick, do so
One day, you too may be out sick
But if someone WANTS your notes because they did not take any, this is not someone you want to align yourself with, they are using you
Always read the book 
I had a teacher who would assign a book to read 
We would discuss it in class as we were reading it 
He would then give us a test on the book 
There was only ever one question on the test 
From that question and based on your answer, he could tell if you had read the book or watched the movie
And from your answer, you either passed with an A or flunk with an F
There was no makeup or extra credit 
Always read the book ... don't take shortcuts 
Listen to your parents
I know they are a pain in the ass
It is sort of in our job description
But your parents love you more than you will ever know
Their advice, their nagging, their constant breathing down your neck is so you don’t make the same mistakes they made
And believe you me, they made mistakes
Maybe they won’t admit to the mistakes they made but trust me, everyone makes mistakes
Your emotions and hormones started going crazy when you were around 10/11
They will continue to go crazy for the next few years….so will your skin
Just take deep breaths, wash your face, brush your teeth and floss
And everything you are thinking and feeling about your period, boys, girls, kissing, sex, the hair growing (or not growing) in weird places, dirty dreams and crushes on your history teacher – your parent most likely had the same thoughts and feelings, talk to them about it
They will be embarrassed and possibly deny it but keep talking to them
Eventually, they’ll assure you - you are not alone in your thoughts and feelings and you will get through this
Girls – your period is the worst
I won’t even sugar coat it
Always have an emergency change of clothes in your locker
And wear a sweater or something to cover yourself because at some point, you will leak
And if you see this happen to another girl, offer her your sweater to cover up
Same for you boys, if you see this happen to a girl, do what my friend did for me: he walked next to me with his arm slung around my waist, his backpack hanging off his arm covering my ass
Best friend a girl could have asked for
No one ever knew – and my secret was safe with him
High school is not the “real world”
Neither is college
Neither is graduating from college
Here’s the secret no one tells you: You are already in the real world, you’re just supervised
So, don’t think high school makes you an adult, you are still a kid (embrace it!)
College won’t even make you an adult
The first plugged up toilet you have to plunge yourself makes you an adult – trust me on this one
In the meantime, enjoy high school as best you can
Go to the dances, cheer your team on at Homecoming, attend the school plays and concerts in support of your peers
Study, work hard, stay on point and remember, life gets better
Even when you think it is a good as it gets, it can always be better – so can you!