Wednesday, August 8, 2012

An Open Letter To The Class of 2013 On The First Day of School

Dear Class of 2013,

It's the beginning of a new school year. Today is both a fresh start and the beginning of the end. While you'll hear many commencement speeches and cliche-filled inspirational advice at your graduation many months from now, allow me to offer a different approach: some frank words of wisdom as you begin your journey this next school year of young adulthood.

Some of these ideas will help you navigate this next year. Some won't. Learning to discern which advice to heed is as important as learning how to apply it.

You'll notice I addressed you as "young adults." Not kids. Not juveniles. Adult. You have the capacity and potential to live and act responsibly, with meaning and purpose, making a significant impact on the course of human history. Not later. Not when you're forty. Now. Don't wait until you graduate in order to take life seriously and have pursuits that truly matter.

"YOLO" only makes sense to unimaginative people who don't believe they can change the world and are settling for behaving like an idiot. Believe otherwise.

Smile at everyone. While it may create numerous awkward social moments for you, it may lovingly disarm the people you encounter while having the enormous potential of brightening a person's day. Couldn't hurt. Unless you're at a funeral. If smiling isn't your thing, try giving high-fives instead.

When tempted with the opportunity to cheat on an exam or project, don't. Your integrity is worth far more than a passing grade.

Get a mentor. Find someone who is living a worthwhile life and spend as much time as you possibly can with them. Buy groceries with them. Eat meals with them. Go on walks or bike rides with them. Listen to their stories. Learn from their mistakes and triumphs.

Read great books. Not textbooks or some of the garbage in the young-adult lit section of Barnes and Nobles. Read only the books worth reading. If you don't like reading or aren't very good at it, find someone who loves it and learn from them. If you need suggestions, ask a few librarians and English teachers.

You will fail at something this year. Whether academically, relationally, emotionally, or spiritually, you will make a significant error that will leave you feeling awful. When this happens, ask yourself, "what am I learning about myself from this?" You'll be better for it.

Don't text while driving. Yeah, I know everyone does. I do it, too. It's foolish. Sending emoticons to your friends isn't worth the potential destruction of a human life.

Be present with people. Put your cell phone away and don't respond to texts while having a conversation. Pull those ear buds out and listen to the beautiful stories around you. You are surrounded by immortal beings created in the image of God. They are far more marvelous than getting a new high score on Doodle Jump.

Befriend the outcast and marginalized. It doesn't require compassion to be popular. It does to have character.

Eat plenty of pizza. Your metabolism isn't getting any faster the older you become, and let's be honest, pizza is scrumptious. Enjoy it now. Unless you're lactose intolerant or something. Then eat plenty of candy. I recommend Skittles.

Communicate the truth. Say what you mean and mean what you say. No lies, no insincerity, no b.s., and no deception. If you screwed up, own it. If you feel strongly about something, say it. Pursue authenticity, vulnerability, and self-awareness in all circumstances and relationships.

Forgive. Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Forgive often. Be quick to pardon, and don't wait for an apology.  You don't want to waste your life wallowing in bitterness, resentment, or self-pity.

Live a good story. View yourself as someone living in the grand narrative of history. Develop your character. Choose difficult paths intentionally; take the harder-but-better route. Seek obstacles to overcome. Reject any activity or practice that won’t lead to a better story. Look at this season as a chapter in an epic tale. (And this isn't even the climactic chase scene!)

There is a God who created you and loves you. You don't have to believe this is true, but life is far better if you do, is true.

I am praying for you, class of 2013. They are hopeful prayers, ones filled with a longing to see each of you live into your potential, to imagine a better world and do everything in your strength to make that world a reality. Godspeed.

Grace and peace,

Joel Mayward

PS: Share this wisdom with your friends, like on Facebook or Twitter or your own blog. Maybe we'll all learn something. And if you do (learn something, or share this), let me know by writing me an email here.


  1. Words of wisdom for anyone at any stage of life... The read like poetry to me. Loved it. Thank you... (Shared via Facebook)