5 Pieces of Advice Every High School Graduate Should Get
Holy poop, you're only a few months away from being done with the horrifying bullshit of high school forever! You've entered the final semester, the home stretch, the ninth inning, the whatever happens at the end of a soccer game. Can you feel that? That's the stank breath of freedom, steaming up the back of your neck like a morose stalker who finally got the balls to enter your house. Just watching you sleep from inches away, ready to rub his sweaty dick all over your cheek. What, you thought it was going to be more like a white knight riding in with a glass slipper? Ha! That's cute.
Don't get me wrong: Freedom can be a glistening savior, but not unless you prepare for it. Make it a bed. Wash the sheets. Cook it dinner. And if you're saying, "Why is he telling me this now? I don't graduate until spring!" then the odds are you're already behind the curve. So listen up, you don't have much time ...
Talk to Your Parents About Bills
My first apartment was a piece of shit, and in all likelihood yours will be, too. It was a one-bedroom addition to someone's house, and you could hear them fucking pretty much every night of the week. They were in their late 60s. And they smelled like beef broth. The rent was cheap, but it had to be, because I worked a fast food job, talking about how famous I was going to be one day while mopping up piss from the men's shitter.
Regular readers know that I write a lot about the habits you develop when spending your life as a poor person, but maybe the worst is that I entered the adult world knowing nothing about finances beyond "hand man money -- man gives you beer." I didn't have a bank account, so all of my money ended up in a cookie jar on top of my fridge, where any one of my drug addict friends could have easily fucked me blind.
I had no idea what I was doing. For all I knew, the electric bill could have been $5 or $500. I had never grocery shopped for myself, so the first week on my own, I stocked my fridge with $200 worth of shit, and I didn't even get through $70 of it before the rest went bad. Who do I talk to about disposing of my garbage? How much does that cost? If I put some particularly nasty shit in there one week, do I have to tip them like a waiter? Wait, why am I getting a gas bill when I didn't use any the whole summer? Completely clueless.
The easiest way around this was what I was too dumb to do back then: Ask your parents (or any available, experienced adult who isn't a complete fuckup -- another one of my hurdles) if you can sit in when they figure out their bills and budget. Even if they're well-off enough that they can just start writing checks for whatever is due, you'll learn tons. At the very least, you'll get a ballpark idea of the types of numbers you'll be seeing when your own bills start coming in, and that is invaluable. Do they have a miscellaneous section on their budget? Ask about it. What percent of their income goes into savings versus checking? How much is appropriate to tip your statue-polishing staff?
The most important thing I wish I had known about back then is timing. Most of my bills now are either auto-deducted from my bank account or paid instantly online. But there are a few oddball things that still require me to write out a physical check. Knowing where their office is located can save you some service interruptions and late fees. For instance, you'd think that my trash pickup would be based in Illinois, since that's where I fucking live. But it's not ... it's in Kentucky, because of course it is. Sending them a check one day before the bill is due results in a late payment because it simply won't make it there in time, and that means my trash gets to sit in my yard and stink up the neighborhood for another week.
Even if the company offers automatic or electronic payments, sometimes you just don't want to use that service in the first place because you have more control when you physically pay them. Let's face it -- when you first start out, many of you are going to be as broke as a kicked dick, and sometimes it's just better to let a bill lapse for a few days than for them to take money out of your account and overdraw you ... or at the very least, leave you with six bucks to last the rest of the week.
It's so tempting to coast through your last semester (or last year, or all) of high school, especially if you've racked up enough credits that failing a few classes won't matter. The problem with coasting isn't about work ethics or a moral obligation to education. It's about the fact that if you let your mind do half-assed work for nine months, it trains itself to continue operating that way even after you graduate. As odd as this sounds, it's actually easier to go through that last year of high school working at your full potential so that upon graduating, you'll be taking a side step into work or college. It's so much easier to maintain momentum than try to sprint in order to catch up.
Yes, there are the obvious examples of why you'd want to do your best: good placement test scores for college, honors look great on a resume, teachers only fuck smart students ... but in my experience, it's all about making sure you don't train yourself to slack off before diving into a world that has a constant hard-on for squashing lazy, unprepared people. The cheap shortcuts that worked at this level won't work at the next one.
But all that aside, you could very easily find yourself in the situation I was in. I went into my last two years of school just shy of a 4.0 GPA. I had it all locked up -- all I had to do was take some basic bullshit, and I was home free. Instead of busting ass and graduating early, I took only what I needed to get by and fucked off for two years. The last week of school, I needed to pass three specific classes in order to graduate, but I had dicked around so much that I had no clue what was going on. And to make a long story short, I had to kidnap the president's daughter and ransom her for my diploma.
Celebrate Your Graduation, Then Immediately Move On
Look, we adults get it -- you've been in school literally your entire lives. You've been putting up with stupid bullshit from both your peers and seemingly clueless adults since you were old enough to retain information. You've withstood teachers being assholes, students being pricks, bullies giving you wedgies, and crushes destroying you with rejection, on top of years of learning the most useless bullshit you will ever be told in your life. You deserve a breather before diving into the real world. Maybe just a couple of months over the summer to get it all out of your system. We get that, and we totally agree.
But do it quick and then get your fucking ass to work.
We don't say that to be cold, heartless bastards, even though that's admittedly the only way that statement can come across. Unfortunately, we understand that the longer you wait to jump in, the harder it is to integrate into society. And that's true of both the working world and college life.
When it comes to college, you probably have honor student friends who knew where they were going a year ago and have half a dozen schools competing for their application. But the rest of us kind of just pick one that's not too far away because, well, that's the next thing to do after high school. So take this advice: Get as much of that paperwork filled out and turned in as fast as humanly possible.
This is going to be your first valuable experience with huge, inefficient bureaucracies -- from the school itself, to the government's student aid programs, to your student loans. There is just a massive, ridiculous amount to sift through, and any of it can be delayed for weeks if you forget to check one box. So if you put it off, you are going to find out that you missed some fucked up hidden deadline, and now you either have to wait another semester to enter college or start late, after key classes have filled up, and/or pay some bullshit fees (the first of many, many unexpected fees they'll stick you with, by the way). You'll also run into oddball grants that you do qualify for, but they're only available to the first 100 students who sign up for them. If you wait, you are guaranteed to be No. 101 in the application line. Colleges are like the knowledge mafia, minus the knee cappings and awesome food.
If you're skipping college and going straight into the workforce, you have an advantage right now that you'll never have again as long as you live: People expect you to have no work history. You are a clean slate, and you are not held at fault for that. Yes, this means that you're not going to be jumping into the greatest position right out of the gate, but it does mean that you'll get in the door a little easier. And the sooner you get in, the quicker you can start amassing the experience needed to climb the ladder out of cleaning other people's shit to making other people clean yours.
The longer you wait, the longer the gap becomes between your graduation date and your first full-time job -- and the larger that gap grows, the more gun shy potential employers get about hiring you. It makes them think, "Damn, if nobody hired them in the year and a half since they graduated, they must be unemployable douchebags."
Yes, it's totally fine to take a few weeks off. Enjoy them. Relax. You totally deserve it, because a lot of kids don't make it as far as you just did. But don't get too comfortable, because you have a long, long way to go, and that first step off the starting block is vital to your success.
Don't Base Your Education Decisions Around Your Friends
Telling an adult 20 years out of high school that she shouldn't base life-shaping decisions on what her friends are doing will likely get you laughed out of the room while dodging her jutting middle fingers. But I can't even begin to tell you the number of people I knew who went to a particular college simply because their friends were going there. And even further, chose specific classes so that they could be in them together.
Unless you're both going to school for the same exact degree, chosen because it's legitimately what you both want to do, regardless of what the other thinks, doing that is stupid. But understandable.
The idea of separating is unthinkable to friends who have been together as long as you have. Hell, even if you've only known each other through four years of high school, that's still almost a quarter of your life. The thought of taking that next major step without them is just flat out frightening. And plain ol' common sense tells you that if you go different directions during these college years, you're going to grow apart and eventually disconnect. Unfortunately, yes, it does happen.
No, not always -- my best friend and I have never lost contact, even though I lived all over the country in a time when the Internet wasn't a thing. You have the advantage of email, texting, webcams, chat rooms, instant messengers, and a shitload of easy ways to keep in touch. It's totally up to you to make that happen. But what you can't do is alter your life and dreams because you're afraid of missing a friend for a few years. This is your first real test of adulthood, and it's not an easy one. The one huge downside to becoming an adult is that life doesn't ease you into it. It just grabs you by the hair and jams its big ol' hairy balls in your face. No warning. Just balls.
But planning your life around what they're doing is a disservice to you both. If he wants to be a teacher, he's going to choose a school that's known for producing job-securing teachers. If you want to design software for dildo-molding machines, the teachers' college probably isn't going to help you much. And no matter what either of you decide to do, being apart gives you both the priceless experience of navigating life on your own.
Brace Yourself for the Removal of Authority
I mentioned a while back that self-control is the hardest skill you'll ever have to master. When you move out on your own, the absence of someone to make sure your room is clean and that you're taking your medicine is a total mindfuck. But that's only a small part of the real shock.
For pretty much the first time in your life, those people you used to hold up as infallible fountains of knowledge are now on the same level as your fuckup friends. They're not authority figures anymore -- they're peers. And that means that when you do something wrong around them, they no longer have the ability to punish you. Not in the traditional sense, anyway, like sending you to your room or taking away your Dustin Diamond VHS sex tape collection. In a way, that's actually preferable, though.
Now they're much more dangerous, because the only punishments they can deal out are turning your ass in (if what you've done is illegal) or, more likely, disassociating themselves from you, which can actually be far more damaging. Because now, you've lost a contact. A job reference. A ride when your car breaks down. A friend to bring over a shovel when life shits in your driveway. A mentor to show you all the tricks to unfuck yourself from the hundreds of situations that they never bothered to teach you in school.
It can still be worse, though. They could actively fight against you. "I wouldn't hire that guy. He's a total dumbass, and he will sink your business simply by standing inside the building." See, that's the problem. They no longer associate with you because they have to. Their role as teacher and protector is over. Now, if they associate with you, it's because they want to. And if you're not the type of person they want to be around, you will find out that life can be one tough, cruel motherfucker to try and master on your own.
I'm not telling you that when you step into the real world, it's all fire and brimstone and gnashing of teeth. I'm just saying that you need to brace yourself right now because you're about to be thrown into the sink-or-swim end of the pool, and the lifeguards only come on duty if they feel like you're worth saving. Don't worry, you're worth saving. And you'll do just fine. I just want to give you enough of a warning so that you have time to brush up on your dog paddling.