As sagely as i can manage

I had the opportunity today, for the first time, to say a few things at a student's graduation.  The typical format is as so: student gives intro, teacher speaks, principal speaks, associates speak, house parents speak, therapist speaks, girl speaks, program director speaks.

Today, things were a bit different.  A student was leaving our program graduating academically, but not officially completing the program.  There were just some issues that had occurred that precluded this student from a full program graduation.

I will admit, over the last couple weeks, I had very little patience and sympathy for this particular student.  I felt in many ways that she had sort of "dug her own grave" as it were, and that she most definitely didn't deserve to graduate as was the norm.

It was really easy to focus on some of the terrible things she had done, and ways she had hurt others.  What I found myself not being, was a very sympathetic human.

I'm not sure what it was, but over the last couple of days I began to feel really guilty about that.  Whenever a student leaves us, as the academic staff we give our girls a children's story book that reminds us of her.  We all sign it, and someone presents it at the graduation. I think part of my change of attitude had to do with a quote that I wrote in it.  "Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done." -Bryan Stevenson

I believe that.  I really do.  And with this student in particular, I'd been having a difficult time remembering that.

I wanted to do something meaningful.  I wanted this student to feel that, in spite of everything, we really have hope for her.  That we really do care.  That it really does matter to us that she succeeds.  That despite everything, we do love her.  So the history teacher and I both came up with lists of...life advice.  Just things we wished we had maybe known, or learned sooner, or have maybe learned recently.  We created our lists independently, but they had a lot of similarities, and inexplicably meshed together incredibly well.  We took turns, reading our pieces back and forth.  I wish I had her list.

I don't know how much of this advice she will take, and I don't think any of it is that life altering.  But I want to believe that, if nothing else, she felt like I gave a shit.  Because I do.  I give so. Many. Shits.

General Life Advice
By me.

Love yourself.

Love others.

Trust others.

Don’t take college classes before 9 am.

Take thursday classes.  Seriously; no school from Friday-Tuesday is a dream.

Don’t put off assignments until the night before they are due.  Start at least one day before that.

Don’t waste money at coffee shops, except for occasionally.  Buy a coffee maker.

Grind your coffee beans; don’t buy them pre-ground.

Drive the speed limit.  Tickets aren’t worth saving 5 minutes.

Discover a new band every week.

Go to every concert you can.

Choose friends who are easy to “be good” around.

Don’t get credit cards.  YOU DON’T NEED THEM.  NOBODY NEEDS THEM.

Learn to cook.  For yourself.  And then cook for others.

Eat out less than once a week.  *see the above cooking advice

Respect your mother.

Don’t ever buy a new car.

Don’t ever get a car loan that is longer than 4 years.  

Buy a car that costs less than 10k.  

Actually, no more than 5k.  You won’t be sorry when you own it.

Be wary of student loans.  Take out as little as possible.  It isn’t free money.  It isn’t even close to free money.

Always work, even when you are taking out said loans.

Don’t speak ill of bosses and/or coworkers on facebook.

Don’t post things of facebook that you wouldn’t want your parents/Jesus/bosses/anyone who you ever might want to have a good opinion of you to see.

Probably just delete facebook.

Did I mention love yourself?

Go hiking as often as you can.

Make friends who don’t look like you; i.e. don’t dress like you, don’t like music you like, don’t like all the same things you like.  You’ll be shocked how many really awesome humans exist who are different than your typical friend choice.

Buy Apple computers.

If you ever have to get internet, or cable, and you sign up with a promotion, once your promotion ends, NEVER PAY ANY OTHER PRICE.  All you have to do, is tell them you like the price you have, and will disconnect otherwise.  They will send you to “customer retention” and you will often actually, inexplicably, get a better price.

Don’t be punishing.  Even if people deserve it.

Don’t yell at people.  Ever.  If you have to yell, it isn’t worth saying, and they probably won’t be listening anyway.

Don’t be a turd.

Always lock your doors.  People steal things.

Wear ear plugs at concerts always.  Just take them out during your favorite songs.

Remember that if you get a pet, its like a 10 year commitment.  That’s like, almost a kid.

Don’t have a kid, anytime soon.

Being single is okay.  You don’t need a man to be happy. 

Read lots of books.

When people give advice, at least consider it.

You aren’t always right.

It’s usually okay to go an extra 500-1000 miles without an oil change.  But make sure there is still oil in the car.

Listen to NPR, as often as you can.

Don’t cheat in college.  EVER.

Study things that interest you, as often as possible.

Be kind to others.

Don’t let things rot in the fridge.

Don’t let things rot in the sink.

If you use a computer to take notes in school, disable ichat, or fbook, because you will NEVER pay attention.

Budget your money.

Eat healthy food. But also sometimes eat super unhealthy food.

Volunteer in school.  Get behind causes that matter.

Vote.  Always vote.  Encourage others to vote.

If it seems like you could get arrested doing it, don’t do it.  Who cares how fun it sounds.  

Be proud you’re a woman.  Women are amazing, and you’re lucky to be one.

Be kind to others.

Love yourself.  

Be kind to yourself.

Good luck, kiddo.  I hope if you ignore all the rest, you pay attention to the last four.


Debbie said...

Love this! She's lucky to have had you as a teacher...I'm proud to be your mom. :)

julieb said...

that's really beautiful!!
I wish that I had this advise when I was in college! She is lucky to have such a great teacher!!