OK, it's been a month since you've all graduated. For all of you "taking a year off" - which pretty much means either doing something cool such as hitchhiking across the country or building a library in Ghana, or not cool such as living off your folks and playing video games all day - do the former.
The world that you've just entered doesn't give a fig about what level you're on in "World of Warcraft." The world that you've just entered considers playing video games "recreation," which is how you entertain yourself when not making a living or learning something that will help you make a living. If your parents allow you to sleep under their roof and raid their refrigerator at will and play video games all day and night, then they are not real parents and you are not a real person. So go away. You bother me.
If, on the other hand, you find a job so you can help afford school in the fall or simply get on with your life, welcome to adulthood. It basically sucks, with momentary flashes of joy and happiness and contentment and satisfaction and pride, and then it sucks again. Get used to it, because it's not gonna go away until you do. As a matter of fact, playing video games all day and night is looking pretty good right now.
Some practical advice: There are no bells signaling changes of venue in the real world. Changes of venue can occur in a matter of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years. It is up to you to recognize and respond appropriately to them - there will be no ringing to herald their arrival.
Along those same lines, "missing the bus" and "my alarm didn't go off" no longer work. Employers don't care about buses and alarms. They care about you being there and doing your job - that's all. Your great aunt was abducted by Somalian pirates Sunday and you had to comfort your grandmother? Have a nice life, good luck and give me your key.
I've long thought that signaling the beginning and end of classes by ringing bells in high school is a disservice to students. Real dogs don't wait for a bell to eat.
And if you're still looking for work - it's rough out there right now (you came close to competing with me for scooping ice cream), here are a couple of hints. Guys, don't sag. Nobody wants to see your damned underwear, not even your friends, and especially not girls. I know, I know, I know - "It's comfortable." No it's not. You're constantly pulling your pants up and those dressing gowns you call T-shirts down and walking like Popeye. Give it a rest. You've successfully irritated us. Now find your waist and move on.
And girls, jeez, showing your underwear just looks trashy. For a guy who's imitating Boris Karloff after a face-plant into a tackle box with his butt hanging out, maybe you're enticing, but that's because all that metal and flannel is impeding his synapses. They're operating on the level of "Bra straps. That means bra. That means breasts. That means girl!"
If that's who you're after, way to go. But just a word of warning: Guys with county jail tattoos usually are just gonna wind up with more county jail tattoos. I don't have any county jail tattoos, but I've seen enough bra straps and plumbers' cracks this last year to gag a horse.
To gag a horse. That was one of my mom's automatic responses. My mom, whose apron and ironing, and my dad, whose fedora and wing tips led to this pendulum; we had no choice but to rebel. As independent thinkers, we had no choice. It was time to stop living in lockstep. And we, in turn, created your parents. And we all should have been neutered.
Not that I don't love you - you know I do. I'm glad you're here, and I'm also glad that Alzheimer's or death is closer than farther. I don't know how much more I can take.
One more practical word of advice: Never trust a "wash and wear" label.
You might wind up in a place where wearing T-shirts simply is not acceptable, and you'll find yourself in this strange contraption that has these little fasteners - they're called 'buttons.' Anyhow, I've done the wash-and-wear thing a couple times since I've been single, and it looks like I've got Keith Richards wrapped around my upper torso. Stoners on the street come up to me and ask if my shirt wants to smoke a bowl.
So if you're living with five roommates in a three-bedroom mobile home and mom's not there to tell you how to dress, don't take the advice of the guy with the mangy golden retriever who's couch-surfing in your living room. It's not "all good" and "no worries," and it won't be for him for long. Buy an iron. Try to look like the people you're working with.
And oh, yeah - have a nice life.
Greg Loheit is coordinator of The Center, a program for at-risk children at Durango High School. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.