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Lauren Beukes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

An Open Letter To The Class Of 2010

Dear matrics,

Congratulations! You made it! You’re through to the other side: the real world. Welcome, bright-eyed young people with your dreams and ambitions and your shining futures full of possibility. Here are some tips for the road ahead.

1. You are not a brand. You’re a person. You’re much more complicated and way cooler than some logo with a backstory. And if you screw up your reputation, it’s going to take a lot more than a glossy ad campaign to fix it.

2. Be nice. See above point about reputation. It doesn’t mean being a pushover. It means being kind and generous and yeah, polite, like your mamma told you. But what she probably didn’t tell you is that it’s also the sneakiest way to get what you want. Nine times out of ten, being nice will get you better results than being aggro. And it’s way less stressful than kicking and screaming and fighting.

3. Ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. Especially when it’s uncomfortable.  Don’t accept things at face value. Trust is a beautiful thing. Naivety will get you screwed.

4. Don’t forget that people kicked down the door so you could waltz through it today.  Hold on to your rights, they’re precious and fragile. I know you’re sick of hearing about it and you think apartheid had nothing to do with you, but it did and it does.

Sure, the news is ugly right now with corruption and cronyism and scary media crackdowns, but trust me, apartheid was way worse. The state spied on people, put them under house arrest, tortured and murdered them or worse, just made them disappear –  and threatened the people who tried to expose it. It was a sick and crazy time and the legacy of a crappy education system and institutionalised violence and racism is going to be hanging around, tripping us up for decades. You’re gonna have to deal with it. Sorry.

4. Technology is your friend. The whole world is open to you in ways unimagined. You want to use that to your advantage. But, you know, be careful. Embarassing photos, or worse, videos, will come back to haunt you worse than a Paranormal Activity rerun. The Internet is forever. That stuff will be out there for the rest of your life. Unless there’s a zombie apocalypse in 2013, in which case dodgy cell phone photos are the least of your worries.

5. Txt spk is not the end of the civilisation, no matter what your English teacher told you. Language is fluid. It evolves. We’ve been doing horrible things to language since the first Neanderthal slung two grunts together. In the last five years, smart adults have made-up truly awful words like “glocal” or “actioning” which is just as bad IMHO as txt. Txt spk is fine as long as it stays where it belongs. Txt in your philosophy essay or your job application is about as appropriate as swearing in front of granma. Be appropriate in whatever you do.

6. Don’t forget to live in the real world. Take photos, tell your friends about it on Mxit, record video footage, post it on Facebook, but don’t forget, in the middle of all that connectivity, to connect to the actual moment too.

7. Be brave. Stand up for your convictions. Figure out what your convictions are in the first place. Always get involved, when you see bad stuff going down, especially when it doesn’t affect you personally.

8. Work your arse off. The world might be your oyster, but only if you can crack the damn thing open. Crowbars may be required. Or alternately hard work, guts and determination. Keep in mind that most “overnight successes” take ten years to get there. Don’t wait for opportunities to find you, go questing for them, hunt them down and pounce on them and don’t let them go. Have a plan. Keep working at it.

9. Get over it. Life sucks sometimes. Often, even. Often, it will be out of your control. Hang on. Ride it out. Do the best you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

10. Be open-minded. Be curious. Delight in the world. Hang out with new and interesting people, break out of your little boxes and bubbles and safety nets. Explore! Adventure! Do new things! Change the world! Even just a little.

We’re counting on you.

(First published in The Big Issue magazine – please support them)

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    December 6th, 2010 @23:33 #
     
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    Nice, Lauren. I'd add as point 11: If you screw up, even if by accident, apologise. Sincerely and immediately. Don't make excuses or justify yourself or get defensive, just say sorry and mean it.
    Oh, and buy Big Issue. The content just keeps getting better...

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    December 7th, 2010 @08:58 #
     
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    And wear sunscreen!

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    December 7th, 2010 @09:06 #
     
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    Ha ha, Louis. (Note, though, re: your tweet: it wasn't Vonnegut; see http://www.snopes.com/quotes/vonnegut.asp :)

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    December 7th, 2010 @09:34 #
     
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    Thanks, Ben! I stand corrected, and apologise and give due credit to Mary Schmich (incidentally invoking Helen's first amendment to these commandments.)

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    December 7th, 2010 @09:35 #
     
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    But, still: *do* wear sunscreen, kids. We messed up the sky for you.

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  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    December 7th, 2010 @09:58 #
     
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    Yep. Wear sunscreen, kids.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    December 7th, 2010 @10:10 #
     
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    I've always liked acting like an old codger, and it's particularly nice now that I'm becoming one.

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  • <a href="http://ingridandersen.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ingrid Andersen</a>
    Ingrid Andersen
    December 7th, 2010 @10:25 #
     
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    I particularly like point number 4 (the first). I still haven't got over an encounter with young university students who are encountering rampant gender bias: worse than when I was at varsity. Never take your rights for granted.

    My additions: don't be so hard on yourself. You are guaranteed to mess up, so get over yourself already.

    I'm with Helen on saying sorry as quickly as possible.

    If you love your friends, family, children, partner - tell them. We don't do this enough.

    Can we gather this in a book, I wonder, and publish it as, oh, I don't know....the last words of a dying lecturer given utterance on a Tuesday?

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