Dear High School Students

You don’t have to go to college the year after your graduate. You really don’t. In fact, you’d be much better off figuring out who you are, what you want in life, and how you can go about getting that. Right now most of you are probably whoever your parents want you to be, you are probably pursuing whatever your parents want you to pursue, and you are probably following the path they’ve laid out for you since you were a small, small child. Likely you have no idea who you really are at the core, because you’ve spent the last 17-18 years trying to please your parents, your teachers, your religious leaders, your friends, your siblings, or countless other people who love you and think they are doing the best for you by pushing into college.

News flash: those people who love you will still love you, even if you tell them to piss off and get a minimum-wage job on the opposite side of the country or in another country for a few years until you figure out who YOU are, separate from them, separate from everyone’s preconceived ideas about who you should be.

News flash: college is expensive. If you are not 100% certain about what you want to pursue for a career, you might as well take your parents $100,000 or your $100,000 in scholarship or loan money, stack it next to the toilet, use it to wipe with, then flush it down the toilet.

Maybe I am a bit bitter about all this, because I am 40 years old now and wishing I didn’t have to pay nearly $750 a month toward student loans and credit card bills to pay for one graduate degree I quit and other graduate degrees that will get me nowhere. I don’t regret my education; I simply regret not waiting until I was ready to go to school. I regret not working at a job for a while. I regret not moving away from home sooner than I did. And I regret doing what I thought would give me security, instead of doing what I loved.

Maybe this is all to say, do what you love. What YOU love. Not what you think will pay the bills, not what you think will satisfy someone else. DO WHAT YOU LOVE. In the words of Bukowski: “My dear, Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down in eventual nothingness. Let it kill you and let it devour your remains. For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover. ~Falsely yours.”

One thing I will promise you, as Bukowski promises you, all things will kill you, but I’d certainly rather be penniless and making art or writing than smothering to death under a mountain of plastic debt, false hopes, and eviscerated career “opportunities.”

Give yourself time to find what you love, and let it kill you.

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