I wrote the following letter to one of my classes a few years ago. I've removed a few specific comments – feel free to share this with anyone you see fit.
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. Life's funny that way.
So here it is:
- You're awesome. Be confident in who you are. I promise that you will meet people who are smarter than you, and 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; while being smart isn't everything, it is definitely something. 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 point two…
- Sometimes it takes more courage and intelligence to be silent, than to speak. As the famous saying goes, it is 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 and 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.
- 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 and developing who you are so enjoy it. Life is a process that no one is immune to. We all change our taste in music, food, TV, people, etc. It's ok to change these preferences – don't try to fight it, just 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 number three, you need to invest in number four…
- Spend time with yourself. 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, a book, 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 number five…
- Everyone has faults. With the advent of social media, I sometimes find myself comparing my faults with 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 with this, you begin to feel a bit inadequate. Everyone has faults so embrace yours. Grow from them and know that they add to what makes you you. And remember, you're awesome.
- 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).
- Smile. Every day. I'm not getting into the psychology of it all, but it *could possibly* make you happier and healthier. Trust me.
- Don't trust people just because they say, "trust me".
- Trust people. It's endearing.
- 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 generally 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. So make them good ones and remember that you are part of other's memories so make sure they are positive too.
- 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. I will be here and will let you interrupt my class, but knock first. The door will be locked because, you know, stranger danger.
This blog is an edited version of a blog that was originally published here.