Poem-a-Day Writer’s Digest Challenge #29. Theme: Open Letter

I was seventeen when I graduated from high school.  That has been almost seventeen years ago, and I often think about what I would’ve told my seventeen year old self, wondering if I would’ve listened.  Some of us learn from the mistakes of others, and some of us just have to learn the hard way.  I think I have learned from both.

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Dear High School Graduates

Take a year or two off if you want—
see the world,
study abroad,
learn things you can’t learn out of books,
because much of what we learn,
we learn by doing.

Want what you want,
not what you’re supposed to want;
love what you love,
not the idea of it.

Don’t go into debt for an education,
but for an investment into a career,
for it’s easier to dig out with a big shovel
than it is to have no shovel.

You can learn about many things from books,
but sometimes,
a great teacher can bring it all to life.
Pay for those experiences yourself.

And just for the record,
I’ve learned more about life from children’s books
than I have from books written for the advanced ages.

Know that the more educated you are,
the less likely you are to be unemployed,
because the world will always be full of uneducated people.
Value yourself by making yourself valuable.

Don’t wait till you have the money to marry—
you may never feel like you have the money,
and two incomes combined are always better than one,
and remember that children don’t always come
when you want them to,
however careful your plans.

Marry the right person, at the right time.
You must agree on whether or not to have children
and if so, how many.
It will never work out if you feel you’re the one giving in.

And think not that love is a barrier;
you can fall in love, marry, and have a family,
and find purpose beyond all that
in ways you might never have imagined.
It all might just take a little longer.

Never try to change anyone;
find the one who is already changed,
who is already right for you,
for the most lasting change comes from within,
from unforeseen circumstances and
unintended consequences.

Always be a work in progress,
and make lifelong learning a goal
that is reached every day,
in a thousand little ways.

Listen more, talk less.
Do more, watch less,
but do not try to run faster than you have strength;
you will pay for it later,
and it will put you farther behind.
You do not have to be as rich as Mark Cuban
to be successful,
for success is measured in a myriad of ways.

Compare the you of today,
to the you of yesterday—
not to others on any day.
Always continue to outpace yourself,
and remember,
sometimes you have to lose yourself
before you find yourself.

Realize that life often deviates from your plan,
and your happiness will depend on how you handle
these changes.

And finally, don’t have entitlement issues,
for we all get more than we deserve.
You will find that hard work often precedes luck,
so good luck on the life that awaits you, graduates.

 

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