If you were 18 again, standing on the high school steps, staring boldly at your future, what would you do differently? What do you wish you had known?
I asked myself those two questions, and the more I thought about them, the more I understood why posters have titles like, "Everything I needed to know, I learned from my dog."
I can, unfortunately, synthesize everything I would like to pass on to this year's batch of high school graduates in one small column. And here it is.
U & raquo;Life isn't fair. If you expect it to be fair, make sense, or always be just, you'll be disappointed. (Try to believe in divine justice, and let it run its course without your help, worry or righteous indignation.)
U & raquo;Don't agonize over your career choice. What you want to do at 18 will probably be different from what you want to do at 30, 45 and 60 anyway. Just take your best shot.
U & raquo;Date some people you would have considered ugly back in high school. They may surprise you.
U & raquo;Try to go to college. You'll learn a lot and may increase your future salary, and it's fun.
U & raquo;Travel. If you keep putting it off, you'll someday be a 45-year-old columnist with two kids, a mortgage, car loan and dog named Zeke -- all of which equals little chance of roaming the beaches of Brazil.
U & raquo;Find a happy medium between carpe diem (seize the day) and being a miser. Think & quot;some fun now & quot; and & quot;some security later." Don't skip the fun part -- you never know which goodbye will be your last.
U & raquo;Always do your best -- even if you're sweeping floors for a living. Someone will notice. God will notice. As Emmet Fox wrote, & quot;Do more than you get paid for, and some day you'll get paid for more than you do. & quot;
U & raquo;Don't be too quick to end relationships. Life is all about commitments. One follows another. Don't think you can ever be & quot;free." You can't. Try hard to make things work where you are.
U & raquo;Don't own too many pairs of underwear, or you'll never get your wash done.
U & raquo;In choosing a career, don't underrate salary. Everybody's an idealist at 18. You THINK you'll be happy in a job you love, but if you can't afford the jumbo popcorn at the first run cinema ... well, think about it.
U & raquo;In choosing a career, don't overrate salary. Eighteen is too young to be a cynic. You THINK you'll be happy doing anything if you're driving a Maserati, but if you hate going to work each morning ... well, think about it.
U & raquo;Go away. People are different even in the next town. You need to see as much as you can. Despite the popular saying, you can always go home again.
U & raquo;Set goals for yourself, but if God drops a gift in your lap, don't be too busy looking elsewhere to see it.
U & raquo;Sleep whenever possible. If you do it now on purpose, you won't do it by accident when you're old.
U & raquo;Don't own a credit card. The last thing you need is a relationship with a guy named Gus at Pawn and Go (or Itchy, down on the corner). Try to pay cash for everything, even cars.
U & raquo; & raquo;If you MUST have a credit card, pay it off at the end of each month. No exceptions.
U & raquo;Treat the money your parents spend on your college education like it's your own.
U & raquo;Use sarcasm sparingly. It hurts feelings and makes you appear only moderately clever anyway.
U & raquo;When you find the man or woman of your dreams, and he or she has found you, STOP LOOKING!
U & raquo;Don't go crazy with the freedom. Remember, you're basically on your own now for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. You don't have to prove your independence all in the first year.
U & raquo;When you're old enough, have kids. It's the only thing that really makes sense.