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Every year, I write my students a letter. It's changed little over the years, but it is continually modified. Please excuse the language - it is harsh. I do this precisely for that effect - so they read it. It's more of a psychological thing. They go in thinking they will have to read an article and are put off by the idea and then they read the first word and they're hooked. They're laughing the whole way through. Also please understand, I teach high school so my language is abrupt, sarcasm is imminent, possibly offensive to some. It's about the message, not the curse words. You could argue that I could do away with the curse words, but sorry, I can't because I want to reach them. There's a sincerity to it that they somehow receive. By the time I give the students the letter, we have developed a relationship and after this letter, there's a stronger respect. 

Letter to my students

Fuck.  But this isn’t really about the word fuck, although it is a pretty epic word that’s way overused and is overly contextualized to mean virtually anything you want it to depending on the intonation. So why am I writing completely nonsensical shit?  With some of your attention spans, you’ve probably started to think about other stupid crap as you’ve already checked out.  This is also not some sappy love song.  I haven’t given you much advice this year and I thought that I should give you some right before break although everyone is much better at giving advice than receiving it. 


I’ll delve every so lightly into my personal life as I lack one, but most of it revolves around being outside or dreaming of being outside.  Why do the outdoors matter to me?  Because they don’t mean shit to most of you.  I would call it “nature” but the word “nature” is not synonymous to the “outdoors.”  The word nature is fruity to many of you meaning frolicking in the woods barefoot and hugging trees.  The word outdoors is more hunting your own food, cooking it and shitting in the woods. In other words, it’s more bad-ass.  It can easily be the same exact place; it’s just the way people perceive those words.  My point is, for the most part, I’m an ecologist, an environmentalist, or I try to be, or I simply claim to be.  For the most part, you just don’t give a shit.  Please don’t get offended, I’m not speaking on behalf of all of you, just most of you.  And that’s okay.  I’m not one to judge.  I’m just speaking my truth.  It’s hard to instill value on something you are passionate about because many people knock it down because they just don’t care.  Someone’s bound to make a joke about it and then it just isn’t worth the time to try to defend it.  As in why do animals matter?  Well, why do you matter?  We put ourselves on these pedestals made of fabricated diamonds and golden plated commemorations just because we like to believe we are of the utmost importance to this world.  Problem is, this is all in your head.  Your self-righteousness is all in your head.  What you characterize as valuable is all in your head.  You want to be a doctor because it is valuable and they are deemed intelligent.  You only respect and revere those that others respect and revere, and you forget about those that surround you, that are just as intelligent, they just aren’t as self-serving.  It just doesn’t compute.  But I digress, let me get back to the outdoors.  I dare you to go outside and try it.  Not just for a couple of hours, but to dwell in it, to live it.  When you come to the realization that you are entirely insignificant on this planet, there may be some sort of recognition that everything should be valued equally - not just people - but everything.  Because why should it matter if you shoot a rhino in Africa?  Should it even matter?  It should.  It should because it shows you have heart and having heart emanates intelligence.  So for the record, here are a couple of things for you to take away, or leave behind but some rather mundane offerings of advice. 


  1. It’s not all about you.  In fact, it’s not about you at all.  Once you can get over yourself, I guarantee, you will be able to see this world for what it is.  An epic piece of shit.  Nah, I don’t mean that.  But I do mean get over yourself.  We are so self-obsessed nowadays with our materialistic needs that we forget that our voices matter.  What we choose to do with our lives has an impact on our planet but we never get beyond looking at a 6-inch screen.  So stop taking selfies and look up at the sky.  That way, you might dodge bird droppings.

  2. Try.  Heck, if not for you show me that you actually can.  I don’t know if you realize it but some teachers actually believe that you have potential and some of you just keep proving that you don’t.  So what gives? It’s hard to fight for you when you lie, cheat, hide, or worst of all, just don’t care.  Give a shit about something and if you fail at trying, then try again.  But don’t just fail without trying.  That’s the true definition of failure.          

  3. Humility.  Have some.  Be able to make fun of yourself.  If you can only make fun of others, but not yourself, well, I’ll just go ahead and say it… you’re an asshole.  And assholes are fine, they really are, we all have one but to have two, it’s just a whole other dimension that’s just not pretty. 

  4. Respect.  It’s not just about respecting your elders.  I don’t care if you’re 12 or 80 years old.  Respect.  When you’re at the cashiers register, turn off your phone.  Make eye contact, smile.  Respect.  Hold the door for others and if it’s held for you, say thank you, don’t just walk right through and not acknowledge the person.  Respect.  If someone tells you to stop doing something, don’t mutter underneath your breath and talk back to them.  Get over yourself.  Bite your tongue and apologize.  Respect. If you fart, own it, don’t blame it on someone else.  Respect.  Own your mistakes. 

  5. Happiness.  Is there a secret to happiness?  Yes.  It’s called every other emotion you can think of.  We have this obsession with being happy.  You know what makes people happy?  Sadness.  Humility. Embarrassment. Love. Fear.   It’s about being complete.  If you’re just always happy there is something seriously wrong with you, because to be human means to have to juggle all different sets of emotion.  Please don’t aim for always being happy.  Aim for being complete, for being a whole, for being able to see something from differing perspectives.  You can have hope for happiness, but realize that the more you overcome and experience, the wiser you will be.  Maybe you won’t exactly be happier, but you’ll be more real.  So it really isn’t all about happiness.

  6. Enjoy life. But help save it.  We need to start doing that.  Every little thing matters.  Buying paper cups at starbucks – they have an impact.  Getting a plastic water bottle every day for lunch – a serious fucking impact.  Don’t fall to apathy.  Take a conscious role in making an impact. Once you get over yourself, and it took me a while to do this, I stopped caring what people thought of me.  I fight the bag boy or old man at the grocery store to not give me any bags even if that means I’ll be loading each item into my car.  I ask for the ceramic mug at starbucks even when they have no clue what I’m talking about.  I pick up peoples litter, sometimes, as they’re dropping it. I take short showers, 5 minutes or less. I use products not tested on animals from makeup to soap.   It’s simple things, but it’s something.  It’s a start. I’m not saying I’m godliness and you’re not.  I’m just saying take ownership for your actions, be aware of what you’re doing and as I said before, don’t fall to apathy. 

  7. It’s not all about school.  When you are done here, you’ll wonder what it was for in the first place and think to yourself, damn, that was an epic waste of time.  And you for the most part will be right.  What you learn in high school has more to do with how to be, than the topics covered.  So enjoy it, learn for the sake of learning and don’t obsess over grades.  Grades don’t define you.

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