An open letter to the graduating class of 2016

It might be odd to hear a graduation letter delivered by someone younger, since normally such speeches are delivered by those your age or older.

Your peers will talk about your four years and hype you up, the older speakers will impart their wisdom and hopes onto you.

I haven’t been around for as long as the old sages, nor have I been with your class as intimately as your peers have, so I’ll let them do what they do best.

Instead, I’ll do something that perhaps only a younger member can do.

I’ll ask you for a favor.

From movies and songs and stories, I get the general picture that growing up is not easy. It wasn’t for me, and I’m sure it was difficult for you, too, at some points.

I remember when I was 18, someone at my birthday party said that I was no longer a child. I laughed along, but something about that made me feel very uncomfortable inside. All of a sudden, I saw myself the way the world was seeing me.

A man.

And I realized I didn’t feel like a man. But that day passed. And I turned 19. Then 20. Then 21.

Somewhere along the line, my baby cousins saw me as an uncle instead of an older brother.

Somewhere along the line, my credit score became important.

Somewhere along the line, the boy living across from me freshman year was arrested.

And one night, a few months ago, I knelt down next to a young girl as she sobbed uncontrollably about a thousand and one things that were cutting her up on the insides. She was drunk. She was crying in a way that told me these things would continue to bother her long after she stopped crying, long after she sobered up.

I think it was that moment more than any other that I realized we were just kids. All of us.

We take naps. We rebel against homework. Junk food holds allures for us. We are easily distracted by flashy and pretty toys. We cry when we are hurt. We like hugs and we don’t forget how the people we love smell, even when years go in between.

So this is what I ask of you, Class of 2016.

Please don’t forget that, and the end of the day, we are all just children.

I bet it’s really exciting to begin your first job, to buy your first car, to set up a mutual fund and just watch your money grow. It’s pretty cool to develop connections at work and build exciting new products for the world of tomorrow.

That’s awesome, and I’m rooting for your success every step of the way.

But if you catch yourself feeling lonely one night, or hurt by that Terrible Thing that happened that day, or feel like everyone else is a success and you’re a failure, don’t hold yourself to the standards that we all once held “adults” to.

Because that adult does not exist.

We all had our own answers for what a “grown-up” was when we were in kindergarten, but as I grew up, I began to realize that kind of a grown up was as much of a fantasy as Santa Claus. When my “legally an adult” friend was in an ambulance because she made a reckless mistake and jumped off a cliff, I was aware of this fact. I was also aware of our childishness when a member of my engineering team thought of a crazy but brilliant idea, straight out of left field, for how we should design our product. Children are imaginative, far more than “grown-ups” ever were.

So when your rent is late, or your promotion gets handed to that good-for-nothing-ass-kisser from Elite University, or you have to do your taxes even though you have bronchitis, be kind to yourself. Nobody is a grown up. You are who you are, and if you feel like crying, let the water works loose.

You are capable of brilliant things. I have faith in each and every one of you.

Okay, faith in most of you.

Okay, like top half.

But still that’s pretty damn good. And you, dear reader, you are in that top half.

Please don’t take this in a condescending way. When I see you, I see the facial hair, I see the skin-tight skirts, I see the curled hair, I see the business attire, I see the lipstick and the nametags and the impressive resumes and the car keys. I know, you are an “adult”.

But you are also so much more than that.

You have the imagination, tenacity, sensitivity, and goodness of a child inside you as well. And I think that makes you amazing, makes you strong, makes you someone I can trust will take care of the world until the rest of us graduate.

Okay, maybe I trust the top half.

When you throw your caps in the air, throw them high. There is something very innocently wonderful about hundreds of graduation caps sailing through the air, like a flock of birds taking flight for the first time.

Our lives are brief and beautiful. I have cherished every moment I have spent with you, and I wish you the best of luck in your adventures in the world. Perhaps our lives will intersect again, but even if they don’t, I would also like to thank you for the impact you have had on my life.

I am proud to have known you, Class of 2016.

Go make something amazing.

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