There's a delightful tradition at my daughters' high school called "Silver Envelopes," where family, friends, former teachers and the like are asked to write a letter to a graduating senior, which are then gathered up and delivered to each soon-to-be-alum the day before they graduate (which hats off to whomever devised that timing, because talk about maximum emotional impact!!) My daughter received letters from aunts, uncles, cousins, friends at U. of Miami and Georgia Tech, all the way to letters from my sorority sisters telling her to have fun at college but to know they'd be watching (in a loving yet lightly threatening tone). Anywho, I was asked to write a letter for one of my favorite kids (whom I've known for years but is not my blood relative), and —lacking any better ideas — I decided to offer up some information I wish someone had passed along to me at her age. Perhaps some other kid somewhere might find it useful, too:
- It’s okay to want everything to be perfect. It’s also okay when things aren’t.
- To that end, get comfortable with the phrase “good enough.” Saying that about projects of moderate importance allows you to perfect the ones that really, really count. And honestly, it’s the only way to get everything done and not lose your mind. This remains true for the rest of your life.
- Walk everywhere on campus.
- Having lots of lead time on a project can be a good thing, but you may find you do your best work under tight deadlines. Play to your strengths.
- Never wear button-fly jeans or bodysuits that snap at the crotch out drinking. No one has the dexterity to handle those fashion choices after a cocktail.
- Listen more. Really listen. Lean in, make eye contact, ask questions, and soak in people’s stories. It’s such a treat.
- If you find yourself withering from a challenge, ask yourself “what am I so afraid of, and why?” then “what’s the very worst that can happen?” If that scenario ends with everyone still alive, try it. Never let being afraid you aren’t capable of a challenge stop you from moving forward in life. You’re more than capable.
- You’re a leader. Lead.
- You’re a problem solver, which is a great strength – but not all problems are yours to solve. It’s okay to push back and let others figure things out for themselves.
- Routines and schedules are great, but don’t let sticking to them keep you from enjoying non-scheduled opportunities like road trips and impromptu gatherings.
- A case of bronchitis was never cured in a bar. Stay home and rest.
- College is the last time you and your friends will be in the exact same place at the same time (both personally and geographically). Appreciate the fact you all live within five square miles of each other, are in the academic trenches together, and there are (please God) zero small children in the mix. Top-secret military maneuvers will come together with more ease than trying to coordinate schedules with your friends from college after you’ve graduated.
- “Input noted” is a perfectly fine response to unsolicited advice and to anyone who says you can’t do something. Unless it’s a cop. In that case, keep your hands where they can be seen and do what you’re told.
- In the words of the great Kenny Rogers, know when to walk away, and know when to run. The instant someone doesn’t appreciate how amazing you are, be militant about getting rid of them. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
- If anyone fails to recognize what a smart, accomplished, kind, gorgeous, hard-working sweetheart of a young lady you are, please send them to me so I can set them straight.
- Always remember: no matter what, you got this.
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