This is not an open letter. These aren’t the musings of someone drunk on their own wisdom, spewing their truths onto whatever’s around.
But this is a letter.
And I am going to shout about what I know. What I’ve learned. And a little of what I hope I’ve squeezed in between grammar lessons and literary analysis.
Because these thoughts? They’re for my graduating students. The awesome people who’ve sat in my class over the last three years – the kids who have figured out that I’m going to do what I’m going to do, and have (mostly) stopped rolling their eyes at my unpredictability and quirkiness. Because I only have one piece of advice for you as you get ready to leave our overheated, mouse-infested, Lysol-lacking home. And it might make you revert to the old eye rolls.
Because my advice to the class of 2016? Screw up.
And I don’t mean with your grammar. Please, for the sake of my sanity and the last three years of my life, don’t use the wrong “its.” Don’t use être where you should use avoir.
But screw up where it counts. Where a simple slash of a pencil couldn’t erase your first choice. Where you need to white it out and build on top of the first try.
Screw up in ways that knock you down. That kick you wherever it is you don’t want to be kicked. That make you want to scream, cry, and quit.
Quit, that is. Scream into pillows or into the night air. Cry on your friends’ shoulders or locked away in a public bathroom. Scream and cry and cry and scream until you’re hoarse and dehydrated and planning a hunt to track me down and scream at me until I cry.
But don’t quit.
Figure out what didn’t work. And try again.
Because that’s how you screw up. You try. And sometimes it works out. Sometimes is doesn’t. But you can’t make mistakes if you don’t try something new – if you don’t throw yourself into a new adventure, or step shyly onto a new path. It doesn’t matter how you get there. It doesn’t matter if your gamble pays off. It matters that you did it in the first place.
I mean, there’s a certain amount of time and place that goes along with this advice, of course. I’m not suggesting you do anything without thinking it through. But you wouldn’t do that. You’re smart people. Good people. Cautious people.
Sometimes, I think, too cautious.
But life doesn’t come with caution tape. You don’t get to live cocooned in bubble wrap. Life is going to skulk over your shoulder with its messed up sense of humour and Shakespearean plot twists. It’s this constant presence that you can’t avoid.
Introduce yourself to it.
Make friends with your own life.
But true friendships are a give and take, and you need to tell life what you want out of the deal. But, right now, do you know?
What you like, I mean. What you don’t like. What you want. What you’ll fight for, and where you’re willing to compromise.
Because I don’t. Still. But I’m working it out every day. Because I screw up every. Single. Day.
Normally more than once.
Sometimes my mistakes are big and noticeable. Sometimes they’re hidden under laughter. Sometimes I don’t notice I’ve made them for days – weeks. Years.
But it happens. And, as a result, I happen.
And, guys? Life is good. It let me meet you. Hang out with you. Teach you.
And, trust me. That was not Plan A. We would never have met if I hadn’t taken risks. Changed paths. Made choices that ended in my being knocked down, blockaded, and re-routed.
But each screw up – each mistake – is valuable.
Because mistakes aren’t bad. They’re just a miscalculation. And there’s no one formula for living.
Life isn’t for marks, guys.
So, screw up.