Charles E. Richardson

An open letter to the Class of 2017

Is the thrill gone yet? Most of you have had 24 hours or more for the glow of graduation to wear off. Now the weight of the next phase of life is about to hunker down on your shoulders. If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s coming. It’s big and hairy. It’s down right scary. It’s life. And this is the easy part.

Walking across that stage and flipping that tassel was gratifying. Don’t lose sight of what you’ve accomplished, but understand, it is just the beginning. I know that’s a daunting thought, but your life is just going through birth canal. Assuming you’re graduating at 18 years of age, your life expectancy, if you’re a guy, is 82.5. years. Girls get four more years. That means you’ve got 64.5 years in front of you, minimum, if you don’t manage to kill yourself first.

Here’s the kicker, some demographers believe you’ll live to be 112, but that’s not what the chief actuary at Social Security believes, even with the medical advances rolling out almost everyday. They can replace knees and hips and hearts and livers and kidneys, but what about our noggins? If I’m not of clear mind, what good am I?

But back to the Class of 2017. There are all sorts of boogeymen you’ll have to face in the next few months. You’re grown. But you’re not. Let’s divide the advice here by gender and I’m going to be straight as an arrow. For young ladies: Boys have cooties. They are full of hormones and have no idea what they want except to make you another notch on their belts. Stay away.

Since we both know you can’t do that, here’s my smell test. 1. Is he cute? Give him two points. 2. Does he have a GPA over 3.5? Give him five points. 3. If he’s an upperclassman, subtract 10 points. Why? He knows the game — and he knows you don’t know how to play yet. If he had anything going for him, he wouldn’t be trying to date a freshman.

Now guys, you have to be on the lookout, too. The best piece of advice, which I missed the first time around, was delivered by my forever friend Ron Taylor. “Look at the mother and you will see the daughter.” In my experience, no truer words have been spoken. That goes for personality and physique. The second piece of advice I’ll have to whisper. Lean in. Don’t go out in the rain without an umbrella. If you don’t understand, ask an older guy to explain.

For the entire class, remember you are not bullet proof. That “S” on your chest does not stand for “Super.” You are a work in progress. You will do dumb stuff, but don’t do dumb stuff that will change your life forever. Don’t ignore your guardian angels. When they whisper in your ears, “Don’t do that,” so don’t do that.

For the members of the Class of 2017 who are waking up this Sunday morning and haven’t a clue about what to do next, I’m sorry you weren’t listening for the last 12 years. But here’s a game plan. Until you decide, what you want to do, get yourself over to Central Georgia Technical College or Middle Georgia State University and register for classes.

You say college isn’t for you. Maybe it’s time to think about advanced education in a different way. Here’s the dollars and cents argument for pursuing education beyond high school. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2014, young adults (25-34) with a bachelor’s degree earned, on average, $49,000 annually. Those with just a high school diploma earned $30,000. What could you do with an extra $19,000 a year?

Another avenue; learn a trade. Beginning welders make more than $38,000 a year. Automotive techs can earn six figures. The median pay for sheet metal workers is almost $48,000, and guess what? Those jobs are export proof.

Why rush out to a college and register? The longer you sit at home the more money you leave on the table. The least you can do is get your required courses out of the way until the light blub inside your head switches on. Sitting at home under momma eating her groceries is not an option. You’re grown now, get with it.