A Word Of Advice For My Graduating Son

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by John Cheese

Dear Jason,

Congratulations on defeating high school. I'm super proud of you, and I can't wait to see what you do with the world. If you treat your life with even half of the motivation and enthusiasm that you treat Diablo 3, you're going to be just fine.

Yesterday, I asked my Twitter friends ("followers" just feels gross) to congratulate you and give you some terrible life advice. I did that for two reasons: 1) I thought it was funny. 2) Roughly two seconds after graduation wraps up this Saturday, you're going to be pummeled with advice from pretty much every adult you've ever met. About 80% of that will be useless, moronic horseshit.

Obviously, it's up to you to figure out which advice is useful and which is just poetic constipation, slowly squeezing from the mouths of well meaning adults between grunts. But while you're trying to mask your expression of recoiled terror, I'd like you to keep this in mind: Be wary of any adult who tells you, "Welcome to the real world." You're going to hear that a lot.

What most adults mean when they say that phrase is, "You've spent 18+ years, coasting through life and playing with your friends. You've had no responsibilities, and life has been easy. Now, you have to get a job and worry about bills, and it is a terrifying hellscape that will eternally feast upon your sanity's ashes."

Here's the thing: You've been a part of "the real world" since you were learning that the only two words that start with "X" are "x-ray" and "xylophone". And I'm not talking about "the real world" in a physical or metaphorical sense. Obviously, you exist in the actual physical realm. Obviously, the term "real" is subjective, depending on the varying levels of THC in your bloodstream. What I mean is that you've been doing what adults do since you were in the first grade.

For 13-14 years, you've spent 35 hours per week just on campus, which is basically your office work space. But unlike a lot of "real world" jobs, you didn't just focus on a small handful of tasks. Every hour, you switched from subject to subject, jumping from project to project on a dime. Each teacher demanded that you make their class your priority and commit their lessons to memory. And when you got home, the work didn't end.

You then had to devote a few more hours to homework and study. You had household chores. What little spare time you had left over had to be split between maintaining healthy friendships or relaxing with video games. And probably porn. Choosing one often means sacrificing time with the other. This is what most adults do now, and you've been practicing it for most of your life.

Here's the big secret that most adults won't tell you (or even agree with): There's no such thing as adulthood.

In the physical form, yes, adulthood exists. But as a philosophical concept, adulthood is about taking on major responsibilities without the dependence or authority of your parents. It's often viewed as a sort of freedom. You answer to yourself, now. No one sets your bedtime. No one tells you what games you can and cannot play. No one tells you not to eat a whole bowl of straight Cool Whip (I did that on the first night of having my own apartment).

The thing is, those authority figures don't vanish when you start life on your own. It's just that now, instead of them being teachers and parents, they're cops, politicians, lawyers, managers, supervisors ...

The work you're about to take on (especially the type of low level jobs you're likely to get right out of the gates) is no harder than high school. In fact, in many cases, they're way easier, because you only have to focus on a small handful of tasks, rather than the 7-8 that you're used to. The biggest difference between high school and "the real world" is that the consequences for failure are more dire. Fail a chemistry class, and you just have to retake it. Fail a job, and you could be looking for a new place to live.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's no reason to fear "the real world" because you've actually been experiencing that for almost two decades. The lifestyle you're used to doesn't change all that much. The authority figures are still there, but so are your safety nets. You'll continue to make strong friendships. You'll still encounter petty drama. You'll never stop learning new things.

But most importantly (at least to me) is that you know that your parents are still here to root you on, give you a place to crash, and spout off advice. Even if that advice turns out to be total, moronic horseshit.

You've been practicing owning the world your whole life. It's right there. Go get it.


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