Sitting in the stands at my baby sister's high school graduation in Seattle last week, I was struck by how much the world had changed since I graduated a decade ago. Whereas my sister and her well-mannered classmates were assembled in rapt silence, my friends and I had been too busy hitting contraband beach balls away from security guards to pay attention to the valedictorian spewing clichés.
Had it been only a decade? Had it already been a decade? The day I walked across the stage at La Costa Canyon High School seemed to exist both a lifetime and a week ago.
As I pondered this unique dichotomy, my sister's principal took the podium to address the students, one of whom was his own son. During a particularly poignant part of his speech, I looked to my sister, hoping to exchange a knowing "Yeah, good advice, man" nod with the little one, only to find her looking at her cell phone.
How could I have been so naïve? These kids weren't more mature or attentive than I was in high school. The only difference was, instead of swatting inflatable beach toys and sex dolls, they were quietly sending Facebook messages and mass texts.
My friends and I were way more fun, but these kids impressed me. They sat there like ninjas, trained in the art of pretending to pay attention, employing the latest technology to do so.
Unless he also emailed a hilarious .gif version of his speech to the students, the principal wasn't going to get through to my iPhone-blinded little sis. So, I figured I'd better give her some advice of my own. Knowing my audience, I decided to give her the following council in a way that might actually get through to her and her peers: write about it in a magazine, take a picture of it on Instagram, and then Snapchat that Instagram pic with a 10-second time-limit so it seems like a scandalous secret.
Get scholarships. Aside from preventing an economic recovery because young people can't afford jack squat anymore, student loan debt downright sucks. Avoid it at all costs. Obscure scholarships are the easiest to get, so definitely apply to the yodeling fund for Dutch brunettes over 5'9".
Stay out of alleyways. They're dark, stinky pee-traps where cops lie in wait to give out $200 tickets. Light from a cop's flashlight travels at 299,792,458 meters per second, or at least 10-times faster than you can pull up your pants. [Managing editor's note: this is especially true when you're wearing hosiery.]
Travel. You may think you'll have plenty of time to do this after you start working and making millions of dollars, but you couldn't be more wrong. Do it now, while you still can.
Take a critical thinking course. Only 27 percent of graduates end up working in the field of their major (source: Washington Post), so critical thinking is the most valuable, widely applicable skill you can hone. Even if you don't agree, you'll still need to take the course or I will destroy your stupidly flawed argument.
Don't settle. When you graduate, avoid jumping into a career you hate just to earn a paycheck. Instead, pick up a more menial job with your friends to bide time while looking for something that interests you. Or start your own business and make that Tumblr money so you can do whatever you want (like bankroll my life).
And finally, little Rachie Baby, never sell yourself short. You will come out of college with a degree that no one will ever look at. If you don't meet the posted requirements of your dream job, don't sweat it. Use the cover letter to convince the prospective employer why she should hire you anyway. Trust me, I have a degree in agricultural business - I'm obviously an expert at this.
Rachael Marie Hall, congratulations on making it through the easiest part of your life. Now get ready for the roller coaster. The problems will be bigger, but so will the successes and, more importantly, the parties that accompany them. Keep on making your older sister and me look bad with those grades. And remember: stay away from late-night waffles, tattoos and boys. Love you, Munchkin. I couldn't be more proud of you. XOXO - Your big bro.