Sunday, August 25, 2013

words to my brother before his first day of high school

Tomorrow is my little brother's first day of high school. Our family's been preparing for this day for almost a year, and I've spent a lot of time reflecting on my own high school experience 10 years ago. I wanted to make sure he was prepared. 

So, this morning, I sat LB down and had the following talk with him.

My brother. (I'm hiding his name and
face to prevent embarassment.)
LB: Daniel, when I saw the movie Ted, someone said "Have you ever heard a Boston woman orgasm?" And it was like [affects gravelly, nasal voice] "Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby!" [Laughs.]

Me: Do you even know what an orgasm is?

LB: No.

Me: [Explains it.] LB, I know you're going to high school tomorrow, so I, uh, prepared a little speech for you.

LB: [Groans.] Okay, fine. You get three minutes. That's it.

Me: Fine. Go sit down. [LB takes the chair, I take the bed.] When I was in high school, I was shy and awkward, and I got picked on a lot. I know you don't have that problem.

LB: Nope. If somebody gets picked on me, they get the smackdown. [Smacks a fist in his open palm.]

Me: Okay, well I hope it doesn't come to that. Anyway, because of those things, I was afraid. I was afraid of people who seemed "weird" or "different" or unfamiliar, I was afraid of not fitting in, I was afraid of trying new things. I was afraid of myself and I hated who I was. And I missed out on a lot of things. At the end of junior year, I realized I hadn't done very much.

I finally pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone, and I bloomed. I did chorus and mock trial and film club and newspaper and TV production. I was a student teacher. I joined Young Democrats. I did open mikes. I made new friends and went on dates and started to like myself. But as soon as I figured this out, high school was already over.

LB, the next 10 or so years of your life - high school, college, after college - will be the best years of your life. You have no responsibilities, no children to feed, no spouse, no bills. Almost no risks.

The world is open to you and everything is possible. Physically, your brain is growing and forming new connections. Its ability to make memories will never be stronger than it is now, and you feel things more intensely than you ever have before and you ever will again.

You have to take advantage of it. Be open-minded. Don't write things off, saying "they're not my thing," because you won't know until you try. Listen to all kinds of music. Go talk to the weird kids, the ones who may not be popular but actually have something to say.

LB: Even the girl who picked up a dead bird on the 5th-grade trip to Philadelphia?

Me: Yes, even her.

LB: But she picked up a dead bird by the wing! And she flung it at people!

Me: Don't write them off, because after graduation, they're the ones you'll actually want to know. The popular kids will peak at 18 and be boring and shitty the rest of their lives.

Follow your heart and your gut and they will tell you what's right, even if other people say it isn't. Ask questions. Push yourself and your idea of who you are, because you are only a rough draft of a person whose story isn't finished.

LB: Okay. [Cracks a smile.] "Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby!"

Me: What did I just tell you?

LB: Talk to the weird kids.

Me: What else did I tell you?

LB: Be open-minded?

Me: Yes! Try everything. Trust me, if you spend the next 4 years in your room playing video games, you will regret it. Now, have you finished your English summer packet yet?

LB: First, I'm going to watch Ted again.

Me: Go finish your packet.

LB: "Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby!"

What would you tell a friend or relative on their first day of high school?

1 comment:

Casey A said...

*Especially* the girl who picked up the dead bird.