Dear Will…

Dear Will,

They sent me the letter you wrote this week—you know, the one you wrote to me in Choices and Challenges two years ago, with your hopes, warnings and prophecies that were forgotten a good two minutes after the envelope was closed. It was a good thing that happened, too, since you were all too optimistic for your own good when you wrote that, and you dreamed you might be able to coast through the next years of your life and play touch-and-go with the behemoth that’s on Coldwater Canyon.

And I feel like I should write back, but I have no dreams or schemes for you, only a few choice words of wisdom taken from three years sitting in these classrooms, taking these tests, playing on these fields and in these auditoriums. Anything, I figure, that might make your life easier.

When you take the shuttle back to North Faring in 10th grade, spend as much time as you can in the cafeteria before you have to leave for the bus. You have no idea how much you’ll miss it, but that could just be the nostalgia talking.

Go to a lot of school sporting events. More than you think you should be going to. Just expect to wait a bit for success.

When you do need to fall asleep in class, prop your elbow on your book and put your brow in your hand so you look at least a little bit subtle. Or lean back beforehand, so that when you do nod off, your head snaps back. It works better than any alarm clock.

Yes, they’ll change the college admissions process just for your grade. Just like they’ll take away a free AP from you in junior year. Everything bad will seem to happen to your grade. Welcome to real life.

When a parent tells you that you look too sick or tired to go to school, you’re probably better off listening to them. The moment you start worrying about taking a mental health day is the same moment you should realize you need it. This school will bury you work in waves that crest for a couple of weeks at a time. You won’t have a chance if you don’t call in sick for a day during those peaks.

The world is not measured by leaves of ivy, nor the number of package-sized envelopes you receive in the spring of senior year, no matter what you may believe. And while everything will seem to tell you that your world will be determined by where you head off to the September, believe those few who will tell you otherwise. It’s much easier to tell you this from the other side, I know, but when the desire for a faceless name overwhelms you, you’ve caved in too far for something that should be fairly irrelevant in the grander scheme.

You will take everything you do all too seriously. It’s inevitable—you can’t go to this school without feeling like your world will end if you don’t finish a math homework or write out a set of interview questions by the end of the night. But if that’s true, then you can’t help but become a stressed-out series of nervous tics. So do something spite your workload on occasion. Watch election results instead of studying up on election theory, or read a Lakers box score instead of a scene from Macbeth. You can’t lose yourself in things that won’t matter two years down the road, and if I have any one thing I want you to read here, it’s this: do the things you’ll remember you wanted to do, not the things you’ll vaguely believe you needed to do at some point. Otherwise, most of the things you will recall will be the nights-into-mornings that should be forgettable.

You sent me three years of your surreal imaginings to look through—I can only give you mundane tips gleaned from three years of my successes and failures, my habits and obsessions. But hopefully, pragmatism will help you more than an overly rosy dream, and when you find yourself swimming in a sea of anxiety, anger, or just plan boredom, these will help you reach the shore—and will hopefully tide you over until I can write you again after the next four years.

-Will Baskin-Gerwitz