Class of 2008:
If you play your cards right, some day you will be old enough to say, "If only I had known!"
If only I had known that…
• Polyester prints look terrible on everybody, and 100 pounds is not overweight.
• "Laying out" without sunblock is a shortcut to tan and a fast track to regret.
• Cigarette smoking is not attractive.
• Making out in the hallway, when you get right down to it, looks gross.
• The guy who was a hottie all through high school will re-emerge fat and bald at the 10-year reunion.
• The math teacher who seemed mentally unbalanced and sadistic really was both of those things.
• Your parents did mind when you ate dinner in your room.
• The class geek went on to become a millionaire. But it's quite possible that he had to leave the country because of tax evasion, forcing the rest of the geeks to hold their own reunions in Canada.
• Springsteen was the real deal.
• Wearing tube tops to school was not a lasting trend.
• Jeans were.
• I made that up about the millionaire.
• No, I didn't.
• Moving 1,000 miles away will not close the door on high school. Web sites devoted to "keeping in touch" will invade your e-mail. Old friends will insist on inviting you to reunions.
• You will learn, through some of this correspondence, that one of the most popular girls in your class has died. Others, too, you just won't recognize their names.
• The reunion-goers will send you pictures. Everybody in them will look so old!
• Years later, when a new friend confides, "I was a cheerleader," you will hate her.
• On a random afternoon you'll scan the yearbook for images of that one cute teacher.
• That was him?
• You will often wonder why people romanticize high school, why high school rites of passage are elevated to such importance. More than your first job out of college, more than your marriage, even.
• You might wish you had done more, gone out for more, tried harder, had more fun.
And here's the other thing you don't yet know:
Who you are is who you are. High school has very little to do with it. It's an artificial universe, a random concoction of values and rules that cease to exist the moment you walk that stage.
Graduates, enjoy your freedom. Use it wisely.
Best of luck!