So let’s go over the basics:
1.Make great friends but leave the cheap thrills alone: I honestly am saddened at the idea that you didn’t get the chance to lose your virginity as an adult and specifically with your wife. But what’s done is done. You still have your entire life to explore the most treasured thing you have to offer another person. My passionate advice to you is simply this: Don’t give it away in the name of “I’m young, who cares!” Over time you will become empty and numb and spend a lot of unnecessary time trying to figure out what love is and if you do (I certainly hope you will) you will know that what you have to give and what women have to give is priceless and not the stuff of cheap thrills. If I have one single, major regret it’s that I didn’t wait until I was married. There are a bunch of religious reasons for waiting also but instead I will leave you with this one request: Don’t make us grandparents until you are established and married. Your life will be a lot easier. Trust me.
2. Alcohol and drugs: Stay as far as way as you can. Don’t think you’re strong enough to resist. Few people are. My side of the family has buried more than its fair share of young and old alcoholics who started out young. It impairs your judgment and makes you stupid by filling your head with the notion that you’re strong and brave when in actuality you are just more likely to do stupid stuff than you would if you were sober. Bravery is knowing that you face unbelievable odds and facing them anyway, not sure of the outcome, versus running away, giving up or quitting before finishing the job. Don’t ever get this twisted. Most alcohol tastes nasty anyway. It’s barely drinkable poison (seriously, it is poison that our bodies can tolerate) and people stand around pretending to be sexy while they stomach vomit-worthy-tasting drinks. I have several friends who to this day never touch the stuff. They order cranberry juice or a soda and never give into peer pressure. Please wait until you are grown, or legal age or out of college or done playing sports. Don’t do it while it’s illegal and cops are on the lookout just waiting to catch the next black boy doing something wrong. And drugs? Say “no,” to that stuff no matter how old you get.
3. Bring Your A-Game to College: Don’t be like me. As you begin your first official week of school tomorrow DO NOT play catch up. I was very smart and came out of high school thinking I was so smart I could beat the system: the system of attending class and taking notes and following up with professors. As I’ve told you in previous talks I spent most of my four years in college playing catch-up for the worst academic semester of my life my first semester of freshman year. Just come out the gates as quick as you can. Pace yourself and get out as far ahead as you possibly can. Like a race at a track meet. It’s better to be out in front looking back to make sure all is well versus always being behind with everything just out of reach. Get with your advisors and teachers. Make sure they know who you are BY NAME and let them know you mean business. They will appreciate it. And if they don’t ask for new advisors. The staff and relatives I’ve put you in touch with will also help you stay the course when it becomes difficult or a little less easy to travel. And also keep this in mind: In order to be considered equal in many situations you have to be better at what you do than almost everyone around you. It is the unfortunate reality of being painted with brown skin. Concern yourself with equality. But don’t bother with who is better or best. Just do YOUR best. That’s it. It is entirely doable. My father challenged me with this so now I challenge you the same way. And I know you can.
I love you son. Your mother, your sister and I love you and miss you terribly and are rooting for you every step of the way. I know your mother and I often gave you a hard time about getting your head right for college, but we had no other choice. Now I have NO doubt you will succeed. You don’t have to prove anything to me – EVER. Don’t waste a second of your time trying to. The only thing I need for you to do is be the best person you can be – not a perfect person – but the best person you are – whoever that is. Don’t take any shortcuts to success, because there are none. And you will have wasted precious time discovering this yourself. Between you and I, my life is hardly over at 41, I’ve overcome a great personal challenge and believe I have nothing but streets of paved gold before me (I’m being a writer here so just follow along). But like I told you at the program on Sunday the day we left campus for the long and lonely drive back home, I want your light to shine brighter and longer than mine ever will. There is nothing you can’t do (except fly, climb walls and do all the stuff that most superheroes can do without machinery) and should you ever doubt this just know that no one but you — the man in the mirror — can stop you. Short of physical limitations, don’t allow anyone else to tell what you can’t do. Don’t allow anyone to categorize and define the type of person you are. Don’t allow anyone to treat you in a way you don’t wish to be treated. But in all things you make sure to treat others as you expect to be treated yourself. And be happy with who you are. It took me a long time to accept me for me. But I don’t think you have any problem in this department.
Think FIRST, and maybe even second, and maybe ask for a second opinion, and then ACT. And as my father says to me to this day, “Know you can always count on your dear, old dad.” Yes, you are out of the nest, but you are not out of the family. My love and guidance is here for you whenever you need it — as long as I have breath in my lungs.
I’m proud to have you as a son and so thankful to be your father. AND (drumroll) your grades are your new currency with me. Get good grades and keep that GPA high and next summer you’ll have a four-wheeled surprise waiting for you. I guess that isn’t much of a surprise after all, is it? But it could be a toy. You just never know with me…