It seemed such an easy request – share a card or letter for a soon to be high school graduate. We soon came to the harsh realization that this was no easy assignment. Over the last 7-8 years we have quite literally watched a young girl mature into a fine young woman, but to have a teenager willingly and positively acknowledge the presence of any adult is such a wonderful exception. Adults that are nothing more than friends of her parents, well one could say flattering even. Of course we would oblige – it was a special honor. And there the easy, flattering part ended and the real weight of what we were asked began to sink in…writing for a teenager.
We debated how to approach this and quickly realized there were basically two paths – the easy and the hard. We could just buy a card, compose a quick “congratulations on your accomplishment/good luck on your journey/you are a wonderful person” note, or we could actually take some time and really capture the moment. We could honestly and openly share of ourselves, maybe include a few lessons learned, thank a teen for opening up to us, share how special it is to give of oneself, and above all encourage her to look forward and embrace the life that lies ahead. Of course, neither of us wanted to come off as “preachy”. The last thing we wanted to have happen was the venerable “teen eye roll”.
It was an interesting and rewarding task, looking back and thinking about what really mattered. What things you wish somebody would have told you. Let’s be honest, we were told all of these things, but we did not listen – we were all teens once, and damn if we did not know everything at 17. In the end, it seemed to boil down to a couple of simple things…go to class, visit every professor during office hours at least once, always embrace the moment – good or bad – embrace it all, surround yourself with positive people, and simply ignore all the extraneous noise and just live your life.
So it has been a year since we wrote our letters. Who knows if any of it really mattered, but I do know that someone has thrived their first year of college; their first year away from home. Grades are good (going to class really works), they know their professors (yes, it has helped making a point to see them during office hours), they are doing all that college has to offer (campus life, philanthropy, intramural sports, part-time jobs, and dare I say the “social scene”). But above all they are realizing what real, lifelong friendship really means, how special it is to meet people who care about you, your dreams, your goals. Who actually encourage and help you in those pursuits.
So who knows, maybe we wrote something of value. What we did realize pretty quickly last year as we were writing is that most of the lessons learned, short of “take a road trip”, is actually still very applicable to our current life. Surround ourselves with positive people, ignore the extraneous noise and live your life, always get up and go to work, see the boss now and again, and above all embrace all that life offers – good and bad. Yea, we need to stop and realize in some ways life really is pretty simple.