Opinion: Words of wisdom for graduates from an old greybeard

5/25/2017 | G. Michael Dobbs

Category: May

Our nephew Douglas is graduating from high school next week.

I’m turning 63, provided I make it to Monday. The intersection of these two events has put me in a mood to do what young people dread from their seniors: hand out free advice.

Yep, few things are more dreaded by a graduate at his or her party than being forced to listen to sage words from some geezer. The only reason they do is to get some sort of gift.

One of the few characteristics that seemed to be passed from generation to generation is the reluctance of many younger people to accept there is merit in the experiences and lessons learned by folks much older than they are.

If you’re like me, you know the look of the glazed eyes that dart around the room searching for an exit. Since I doubt I’ll have the chance to actually impart the following to him I thought my random observations would prove to be fodder for a column.

Perhaps it will help someone – an old man can dream.

So here is some of the advice I’m offering Douglas. Imagine a nice suburban home, a graduate party and a young man seeking an excuse to ditch his uncle.

• If you’re heading off to college, for the sake of the almighty dollar, consider going to a community college for the first two years. You will get a great education – if you pay attention – and save tens of thousands of dollars. You will thank yourself in the near future.
• To save money at college, buy used books. Understand when you sell your books at the end of a semester you get next to nothing for them. That’s the system.
• Take advantage of every opportunity, internship, and job while in college to get a leg up on your eventual competition in the job market. These days, college can’t be fun. It’s your job.
• Don’t drink cheap booze, unless your goal is to get hammered. If you actually want to have a nice experience, drink something of value. Savor it.
• If you simply want to get hammered, don’t drink at all.
• Understand that once you graduate from high school, life accelerates. The older you get the faster time seems to go by. Yes, you don’t believe me now and by the time you do, I’ll be doing the dirt sleep. You will be telling the same thing to someone who won’t believe you either.
• Learn how to do your own laundry, iron your clothes, shine your shoes and cook for yourself. Have your parents given you the opportunity to learn? It’s not too late. You’ve got the summer.
• Stay away from credit cards. You think heroin is addictive? Wait until you have a pocket of plastic beckoning to you.
• Register to vote and then participate in this country’s democracy.
• Don’t put anything on social media you don’t want your girlfriend’s parents, grandparents, pastor, priest, rabbi or boss to see. The first thing I do when hiring to is search your name and see if there are any drunk photos or inappropriate posts hovering in the wilds of the Internet. Those won’t do you any good in a job search.
• Know which utensils to use at a formal dinner. Know that you unfold your napkin and put it in your lap. Don’t blow you nose into a cloth napkin. Don’t be an idiot.
• A little courtesy and respect can go a long way in distinguishing yourself from the rest of the herd. Older people like that.
• Wash your hands. Frequently. It is the best way to prevent getting sick.
• Develop a back-up plan. If your scheme to conquer your field of interest and be on the cover of a magazine falters, what are you going to do? I took class in bartending and worked behind the bar. I also took my interest in cooking and was employed as a line cook. Obtain an additional skill ot two.
• Don’t give money to panhandlers but make contributions to organizations that help them.
• Don’t give up – keep trying and fighting. Make sure you’ve exhausted yourself and every opportunity before you toss in the towel.
• Be true to yourself.
• Never underestimate the value of a true friend.
• Your mileage may vary – in most everything.

That’s probably more than what my nephew – or any other young graduate – could ever endure. But as my favorite philosopher Popeye the sailor once said, “I saw my duty and done it.”

These are my words and mone alone. What words of wisdom would you give a high school graduate? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com.

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