Dearest Graduates:

On behalf of the generation that raised you, I apologize for the state of things.

I apologize that college is still not free, and you now have to choose between a non-livable wage or years of debt for a barely livable wage. 

I apologize we are still dependent on fossil fuels and all-electric vehicles are not affordable.

I apologize that global warming is only just now becoming a priority and even still half the country refuses to participate.

I apologize that assault weapons are still easy to get and that health care is unaffordable, even with Obamacare.

I apologize that those things like basic human rights and equality are even still up for debate. That a woman’s right to choose, and LGBTQ rights to be recognized as humans and thus protected under the same laws as everyone else have been politicized and reduced to abstract concepts instead of inherent values.

I apologize for not having gotten rid of the systemic racism, the Islamophobia, the Anti-Semitism, the misogyny, the sexism, the entitlement, and the bigotry in time for you to join the workforce.

I apologize for the opportunities that you lack because we fucked up and didn’t get things changed in time.

I apologize that, on top of all of this, you also have to deal with the caste system that comes with living in a capitalistic society, and now must sift through all the misinformation and gaslighting being thrown at you to get any semblance of truth.

I apologize that the truth you find is liable to be more insanity.

I apologize for all the ways that we, the generation that raised you, have let you down.

For all the ways we’ve neglected you, and abandoned you, and abused you, I am sorry.

For all the ways we’ve misunderstood you, and disrespected you, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for not supporting you when you lacked the strength, for not encouraging you when you were scared, for not validating your feelings when you were hurt, and for not advocating for you when you needed an ally.

Some of us were really, really shitty parents, me being one of them, and although I know it doesn’t make up for it at all, please know that we did love you as best we could with what we had at any given time.  

Now that I’ve apologized, allow me to express my admiration.

None of you asked to be born into this world. And you have managed, against ever-worsening odds, to not only survive your parents, and your peers, and the bullies, and your teachers, and the drugs, and the depression, and the anxiety, and the ADHD, and the social media, and the FOMO, and the mass shootings, but to fucking graduate high school.

And now, you get to join… this.  

I know I should have done more. When I graduated in 1999, I certainly set out to do more. I was going to be a rock star-turned-filmmaker/philanthropist/activist that would inspire and change the world through his visionary ideas and philosophies.

Was that I took the next twenty years to figure out how to live in this world. While dealing with my trauma.

Most of you are about to do the same thing, to one degree or another.

In fact, pretty much all of you are. Some of you are just better equipped than the others. Either you had really good parents who gave you the nurturing that you needed, or you learned a good deal about what not to do. You’ve got the tools, both emotionally and intellectually, to get off on the right foot at least. Kudos to you.

As for the rest of you, I recommend therapy.

I’m serious. Make your mental health and well-being your number one priority. Whatever it is that you’re planning on doing next, whether it’s straight on to college, or to take a year off like I did then go back, or to get into a trade, or to start your own business, or to pursue the goal of earning a living off your creative talents, life is going to happen.

The world is going to get in your way.

Your brain is going to get in the way. Your operating system is going to be the true authority over your life now. What bugs do you have to fix in order to reach self-actualization?

Self-Actualization is defined as “the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.”

Many of you have probably already heard of Self-Actualization. And those of you who have already heard of it have probably also already heard of the American psychologist and philosopher Abraham Maslow, whose work gave birth to this:

And this is why I say make money your number two priority. Because literally all of this costs money.

Yes, including breathing. Welcome to the tax bracket.

Notice how you cannot achieve self-actualization until you’ve achieved self-esteem.

And you cannot achieve self-esteem until you’ve achieved love and belonging.

And none of that is possible until you’ve met your own needs. Until you feel safe and secure. And you’re healthy. All of which are only possible once you’ve met your physiological needs of food, water,  clothing, and shelter.

Make money priority number two. With the intention of putting that money to work for you. You’re going to have bills to pay. Your finances are going to be a never-ending experiment in figuring out how to manage it, how to earn more of it, and how to balance your needs with your desires.

Life is going to happen, and time is going to pass. And maybe five, ten, fifteen, and/or twenty years from now, you’ll be changing your mind about what it is you want to do to earn this money.

Maybe you’ll decide to go back to school.

Or maybe you’ll decide to write that book you’ve always wanted to.

Or take that trip you’ve always daydreamed about.

Or finally start that creative endeavor you’ve had since… well, since before you graduated high school.

Only now “Adulting” is going to make that difficult.

Your job is going to get in your way.

You’ll be too tired at the end of the day to work on your dreams. You’ll have other responsibilities.

You’ll be a parent yourself and will need to be making your kids a priority.

You’ll have your own mental health issues to overcome.

And your own physical health issues to deal with. Whatever those may be.

And that’s just those of you who don’t get completely derailed by drugs or abusive and codependent relationships or prison sentences for really poor decisions and have to START ALL OVER AGAIN AT A LATER DATE.

Take it from a guy who’s worked them more than thrice: The 12 Steps do not have to be taken after the shit hits the fan. You can start practicing them now.

Them and The Four Agreements.

Because if it takes a major catastrophe such as a heart attack, cancer, or prison time to act as the catalyst of real and lasting change on an individual level, what will it take on a societal level? On a global scale?

You’ve seen all over the internet and social media all this stuff about breaking generational curses. We’re not the only generation that’s contributed to the shitshow you’re about to join. But we can be the last.

It’s just up to you.

Some of you know EXACTLY what you plan to do. Some of you have no fucking clue.

Give yourselves permission to fuck up. 

Give yourselves time to really figure this place out.

To figure yourselves out.  

And in the meantime, earn all the money you possibly can.

All great businessmen see a need and fill it.

We need more therapists and marriage and family therapists.

We need more scientists.

We need independent nonpartisan politicians.

We need teachers who aren’t afraid to tell the truth, even when it makes them look bad.

And we need businessmen who recognize the value of the people coming to work for them and pay them what they’re worth.

And we need to take care of the kids who come after us, because they didn’t ask to be born into this world either.

One final word.  Remember this always and you won’t end up on the @karengohome page throwing your poop at the cashier of a fast-food joint:

You are entitled to nothing.

Yes, you did not ask to be born into this world.

But neither did the world ask for you to join it.

If you’re not going to do something to contribute in a positive way, at least don’t make the situation worse for others.

And no matter what life has in store for you, no matter what curve balls it’s going to be throwing at you, no matter what hardships you’re about to face, no matter what random disasters are going to happen to you, remember this, and there will always be a silver lining, no matter how rough the road ahead gets:

Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – we go through in life is so that we can help someone else.

Congratulations on leveling up yet again.

Welcome to adulthood.

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