Tomorrow is my youngest brother’s last day of high school.
I still have one more sibling plowing her way through school, one last chance to impart advice that will probably be ignored, but I have, what I like to think is, a special relationship with my youngest brother. I’ve watched him go from a boy full of worries and doubts, who’d wander down to my house and sit on the back porch with me in stony silence, to an almost-man with plans and pride, eager to talk about them.
He’s not leaving for college until the end of the summer, but I already miss the sound of his boots coming through my back gate and his voice asking, “‘Sup, Kristy? How was your day?” I already miss our back porch talks and the ability to witness him find his way firsthand. It’s been a privilege and pleasure.
Because of that, because it feels like the last chance I’m gonna get, even though I know, rationally, it’s not, I started thinking about the things I’d like to tell him as he moves on to the next phase of his life. What I’d tell all the 2015 graduates given the chance. Advice from a girl a decade out from where they are now. May they ignore it as strongly as the rest of my siblings did when it was their turn to walk across that stage:
Dear Class of 2015,
Holy shit. Look at you. You did it. You did the thing. Did your principal once sit you down, maybe at the beginning of your freshman year, and tell you to look at your neighbor. Did they say there was a chance that neighbor wouldn’t graduate with you? That was scary stuff, wasn’t it? Because while you were gazing at them, they were gazing at you, and oh, man. What if you were the neighbor who didn’t graduate? What if you couldn’t hack it?
But you did. Hot damn, did you ever. It was probably rough going at times. There were probably moments you were convinced you were gonna end up as one of the fallen. But you pushed on, you forged ahead, and here you are. A diploma in your hand, high school behind you, and your future, bright shiny and promising, stretching out before you. You wrote the final words on that chapter of your lives and now there’s new chapters, new books, to write. And you’re gonna write them like a soul possessed. You’re gonna do great things. You’re gonna do terrible things. You are gonna fuck it all up so gloriously you’ll wonder how you even managed it.
Wait. Whoa. Don’t go anywhere. It’s okay. I promise. Because here’s a secret: we’re all fucking it up.
It’s true! Not a single one of us on this side knows what the bloody hell we’re doing. We don’t. That’s the truest true fact I can give you about adulthood. We’re all just pretending. None of us feel like real adults. I’m staring down the barrel of my thirties and I still don’t feel like a bona-fide adult. None of us know if what we’re doing is the right thing. We hope it is. We’d like to believe it is. But at the end of the day, we don’t know. Nor do we know when we’ll actually start feeling like the adults we’re supposed to be.
So it’s okay. It’s okay if you’re nervous, if you’re scared, if you feel like the most ungraceful, unprepared, unequipped fool who ever set out rambling. We’re all fools just trying to do the best we can.
And that’s my first piece of advice to you, grad. Do the best you can. That’s all you can do, no matter what it is you decide to do. Do your best, try your hardest, be the most glorious fool who ever rambled. You’re gonna screw up. You’re gonna make a mess of things. You’re gonna question your every decision. But do your best, always your best, and you’ll come out okay in the end.
Ask for help if you need it. Put yourself out there. You’re gonna get burned, you’ve probably already been burned, but it’s part of being human. Make mistakes, so many mistakes, and know that no one has ever learned from playing it safe.
Try to leave everything a little better than when you found it. That’s important. The world is changed, every single day, in tiny and necessary ways. Give back. Pay it forward. Stop and listen. If you have nothing in your pockets, remember your kindness is free.
Remind yourself often that you’re enough. The world doesn’t stop trying to convince you otherwise. In some ways, it’s even more aggressive than when you were in school in its determination to strip you of your confidence and belief in yourself. But you are. You’re enough. You’re more than enough. Tell yourself that every day, multiple times a day. Remind others they’re enough too.
Listen close, because this is the most important thing I’m gonna tell you. If you listen to nothing else, if you take nothing else away from this, hold on to this: have fun. Laugh as often and as hard as you can. Laugh at yourself and at the odds. Laugh because you don’t know what you’re doing and laugh when you figure it out. Laugh when it hurts and until it hurts. They weren’t lying when they said it’s the best medicine. Whatever you do in life, wherever this wild ride takes you, be happy. Make being happy your goal. Not money. Not prestige, not any of those things society tells you are important. If those things are apart of your happiness, that’s one thing, but they’ll never matter if you’re not happy. Do what excites your soul. What fulfills you. And if you don’t know what that is yet, that’s okay. Your twenties are for figuring that out. For finding yourself and your passions, for having adventures and making memories and becoming the realest, most genuine you you’re capable of. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
You’re gonna be great. I know it. And if no one else has told you they’re proud of you yet, let me be the first to say it:
I’m proud of you.
For who you are and who you will be. For what you’ve done and what you will do. For how far you’ve come and how far you’ll go.
Because you’re gonna go far. So far. And you’re gonna be amazing. Never doubt that. Not for a second. And if you need reminded of that, come find me. I’ll be happy to grab your hands, look you in the eye, and help lay your insecurities to rest. You’ll be amazing because you already are.
Congratulations, y’all. Now go finish writing your story.