By far and away my most popular post has been about the letter I wrote to my son on his final school year retreat.
Titled, A Letter To My Son: Reflections On A Journey it contained my thoughts and messages to my 17-year-old son as he was about to face the toughest academic year of his young life. Each day the post is read many times. It seems many of us parents are looking for inspiration about what to say to our teenage children, particularly on reaching high school graduation. My readers for this post come from all over the world and the issue seems to transcend geographic borders.
So in keeping with this theme, I am posting my next letter to my son who thankfully survived his last year of high school and just this week started university.
As parents, we often feel that the wisdom we try to impart goes unheeded. But I have a small, sneaking suspicion that when we turn our backs and when the going gets a little tough it is our voice that our offspring recalls, our words that are headed and our example that he follows. So in that vein, here is some of my Curtain Raising Wisdom. You never know, when my children are in their thirties and are parents themselves they might even acknowledge that I made some sense.
And so to the letter:
Without preamble or fanfare, let me say I am proud of you. You are now a high school graduate and a university freshman and at the start of what truly is a great adventure.
You will have heard a lot of people say that the university years are the best of your life. And they are right… to a point.
Much awaits you at university, it now all lies at your feet and ahead of you. Step carefully, son of mine as there will be many a siren call to tempt you from your path. You are now an adult of drinking age [note to US readers, the legal drinking age here in Australia is 18], and you will, for the first time, be surrounded in your academic endeavours by members of the opposite sex. Enjoy their presence and learn from them. Learn from their organisation, enterprise and their studiousness. Learn the subtle interplay between male and female, but always remember to practice respect and equality and above all, safe pleasure.
Mix with the rest of the university population as this is your chance to make life long friendships from a wide circle. Trust me, friendships don’t get deeper than if you have sweated together at 3.00am the night before an assignment is due and neither of you has a clue what the question means. Make friends with people who are studying towards degrees other than your own, pick their brains, let them pick yours, ask questions, think broadly and enjoy the quest to find the answers.
At university no-one takes attendance. Whether you attend lectures and tutorials is up to you. However, as usual with freedom comes responsibility and your own destiny now lies more in your hands. Remember when your high school teachers told you what to read, how to answer a question, where to find resources and reminded you that assessments were due? All that has now stopped and it is up to you to work out what needs to happen and how to get to the end goal. It may be hard at first, but persevere, because this is where you will learn the essential life skills of initiative, self-reliance and resilience.
Enjoy the freedom of having time to work whilst studying, but do not be lured by the false promise of immediate and easy cash. Working is great and offers you a lot of freedom, but do not be lured by the instant gratification of what appears to be easy independence. You will earn more money than you have ever had, but keep your eye on the bigger goal.
You are laying foundations and foundations need to be strong and solid. They take time to build and time to settle. It really is true when they say nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. Perhaps if my words don’t resonate then the words of 50 Cent from the 50th Law might:
THE FOOLS IN LIFE WANT THINGS FAST AND EASY—MONEY, SUCCESS, ATTENTION. BOREDOM IS THEIR GREAT ENEMY AND FEAR. WHATEVER THEY MANAGE TO GET SLIPS THROUGH THEIR HANDS AS FAST AS IT COMES IN. YOU, ON THE OTHER HAND, WANT TO OUTLAST YOUR RIVALS. YOU ARE BUILDING THE FOUNDATION FOR SOMETHING THAT CAN CONTINUE TO EXPAND. TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN, YOU WILL HAVE TO SERVE AN APPRENTICESHIP. YOU MUST LEARN EARLY ON TO ENDURE THE HOURS OF PRACTICE AND DRUDGERY, KNOWING THAT IN THE END ALL OF THAT TIME WILL TRANSLATE INTO A HIGHER PLEASURE—MASTERY OF A CRAFT AND OF YOURSELF. YOUR GOAL IS TO REACH THE ULTIMATE SKILL LEVEL—AN INTUITIVE FEEL FOR WHAT MUST COME NEXT.
Your father and I believe in you and trust that you have the right tools to see you through the next four years. Go after some of the shiny, shiny distractions, but never forget why you are at University and never forget your dream. Shiny looks even better once you have taken care of business.
Enjoy this time and enjoy all that is to come. It is a parent’s biggest joy to see their offspring fly.
Did you have some great memories of Univserity/College? Do you remember your University/College days? Did you divert from the acadmeic path only to come back to it again in later life?