My brother Connor starts high school tomorrow in Geneva, Illinois. In addition to the usual freshman fears, he just moved into town this summer from Minnesota. So I thought I’d provide some hard-earned lessons to navigate the first day of ninth grade at a public high school. Your additions are, of course, most welcome.
- In prison, you’re supposed to beat the crap out of someone on the first day to gain respect. DO NOT DO THIS. Instead, to gain respect, rent a Ferrari and crash it into the Teddy Roosevelt sculpture outside the student entrance.
- Don’t wait until your valedictorian speech to tell the hottest girl in school you’re into her. Walk up to her on the first day and say, “Did you see Mad Men on Sunday? Man, Peggy’s crazy! Anyways… Friday we should make out behind the bleachers.”
- These are not the greatest years of your life. Or at least, they better not be. Would you want to spend the next 80 years thinking about how you peaked so early? We don’t even have jetpacks yet!
- Teenagers have more free time than anyone else. Use it wisely and foolishly. Play some video game for 16hrs straight just because you can. But also think about what you want to be really great at by age 18 (or 21, or 30, whatever) and realize that you’ve been given a free pass for four years to practice. Mine was reading books, and it certainly paid off: I won $70,000 on Jeopardy!*
- Never say “Well, that’s how we did it in Minnesota.” None of those Geneva kids want to hear it.
- You should have at least one Ferris Bueller day before college. If you don’t get that reference, you are no longer my brother.
- Teenagers feel invincible. Awesome, huh?
- If the absolute worst thing that can happen to you is you’re embarrassed or mocked by your peers at some point, it’s okay. Most teens in the world have to worry about food and clean drinking water and not getting killed.
- Remember those cool dorks like McLovin? Those guys not only get awesome girlfriends in college, but they get kickass I-can’t-believe-my-life careers in their 20s. Cool jocks have a couple good years, then burn out.
- Read On the Road. Read Trainspotting. Read Lord of the Flies. You would not believe the crazy shit they put in books that would never get released in theatres or in a video game.
- Dad’s not going to like me saying this, but if someone’s messing with you, and it looks like it might become a fight, just knock him flat on his ass.
- Anytime you want to spend a long weekend in NYC, let me know. I totally want you to be the cool 9th grader that comes to school on Monday and says, “Oh yeah, we went to the 40/40 Club and caught a Mets game. I got this neck tattoo to commemorate how awesome it all was.”
*Okay, the Jeopardy! part is a lie, but man did the book reading pay off. Seriously.