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A Letter to a High School Underclassman

Dear Underclassman,

As I near graduation day, a day that I have been longing for, I feel as though it would be narcissistic of me not to offer words of advice or wisdom. Therefore, here is some help from a kid who doesn’t like school, writes articles every day, and wakes up before sunrise each morning.

Be sure not to take school too seriously, however, make sure you educate yourself in whatever your passion may be.

The magnificent intellectual Mark Twain once said, “I never let schooling interfere with my education.”

By stating this, Mr. Twain was meaning that you can’t raise a kid to be morally principled by cramming algebra and language arts down his or her throat. In today’s society, most believe school to be the only path to a successful life; I strongly oppose that belief, however.

Don’t get confused; I strongly support education. In today’s world, formal education isn’t necessary, though. A self-education, however, is tremendously required.

Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, once said, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”

Nowadays, it’s a generality in society that higher education will lead you to a good career and a fat paycheck. It’s almost as if college is the natural path to a successful life. Because everyone else is taking this path, most choose to do the same.

Unfortunately, this path is a fraudulent misrepresentation.

Orison Swett Marden, an American author, once said, “If a man is not superior to his education, is not larger than his crutches or his helps, if he is not greater than the means of his culture, which are the sign-boards painting the way to success, he will never reach greatness.”

Mr. Swett Marden said it best: formal education is nothing more than an education on crutches.

With formal education, the information is put directly in front of you, you receive an outline of the assignment, and tasked with answering a question, using a specific resource, and following the instructions. If you achieve a grade of 100 percent, that shows very little of your knowledge. It does show that you are capable of following instructions, which is the purpose of formal education; teaching kids how to follow instructions and sit still long enough to be able to work a 9-5 office job.

Again, I encourage you not to take school too seriously; however, make sure you educate yourself in whatever your passion may be. Teach yourself all you can, grow your intellectual ability, by reading books, finding mentors, and learning from the most successful people. At first, it’ll suck badly; It won’t be great from the very start. It will take time — months or even years. You’re going to fail at times, but after every turn you make, will ultimately lead you to find your destiny.

Secondly, I urge you to stand up for what you believe in, because you may be standing for someone who isn’t capable of doing so themselves.

By standing up for what you believe in, you’ll build your self-respect, gain confidence, and it will help you discover who you are as a person.

Building your self-respect can be somewhat of a challenge at times. By speaking up for what you think is right, you’re ultimately following through with your morals, values, and self. Stating your position, in a respectful manner, will also gain respect from others, even if they have a different opinion than you. By standing up for your beliefs, it will show others that you aren’t a pushover; instead, you’re a strong and independent person.

Along with that, you’ll gain confidence in yourself. At first, it may not be the easiest of tasks. You’ll doubt yourself, you’ll be hesitant, and your words may come out the wrong way (trust me, I know this feeling). After a while, though, you’ll get much better, and you’ll gain much more confidence. You will be willing to step outside of the box and outside of your comfort zone, which many teenagers, even some adults, nowadays fail to do.

Furthermore, by standing up for what you believe in, you will discover your personal-identity much easier. By going along with what others say, and by following the crowd, you’re letting them take control over your life. By standing up for what you believe in, you’re expressing a glimpse of who you are and what you want to do in your life. You are putting your real self out for public display; you’re putting your unique self out there. Therefore, by doing so, your identity will come out; doing so will inspire others to do the same.

Lastly, be the best person you can be regarding humanity. Chase after the dream, but don’t chase after the money. Be the reason someone smiles and feels loved; the reason someone believes in the goodness in people.

A wise man once said, “Strong people stand up for themselves, but stronger people stand up for others.”

At first, finding your passion will be about finding your future. Then, it will shift to discovering yourself. After doing that, once you’ve found your love, discovered yourself, and developed into a strong person, you will have an obligation to helping the rest of humanity become stronger.

Therefore, as I state these one last time, I suggest you consider them legitimately.

1.) Be sure not to take school too seriously, however, make sure you educate yourself in whatever your passion may be.

2.) Stand up for what you believe in, because you may be standing for someone who isn’t capable of doing so themselves.

3.) Be the best person you can be regarding humanity.

That, my friend, is why a self-education is the best education.


High school soon-to-be graduate, Jharad K. McClung Lester

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Jharad K. McClung-Lester

Jharad K. McClung Lester is the founder of The Richwood Leader. He's a bi-weekly columnist at the Rogue Review, and has words published in the Charleston Gazette, Lone Conservative, and FlipSide News.
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