Advice as you leave for school
Information that may be helpful for readers:
1. My family is from the Indian state of Kerala.
2. The state’s language is Malayalam.
3. Speakers of Malayalam are called Malayalees, which in my story is interchangeable with someone from Kerala.
4. Non-related men [too old for the cousin-zone, ballpark close enough for parents’ age, and too young for grandparents’ age] are called Uncles. Non-related women who fit the same criteria are called Aunties. The general format is [name] + [Uncle/ Aunty].
This evening, I attended a large high school graduation party for three area Malayalee girls. Enrique Iglesias’ “I Like It” was BLASTING on the speakers. Balloons everywhere. Dim lights. I thought I was at a dance. The girls sat on stage in front of a few hundred people in a local hall (it was packed).
Relatives and family friends took the podium and gave advice to the girls before they left for college. Most of the advice was generic, traditional, pleasant advice: keep up your grades, surround yourself with good people, your family loves and supports you, don’t forget to come back home, etc. It was nice.
I had a problem with the advice one Uncle gave the girls (shortened):
When you’re asleep, you’re not studying. When you’re at an event or with friends, you’re not studying. With that in mind, you should spend the rest of your time studying. Stay focused on your studies. Don’t ever change your major, because that just leads to more time and money wasted. Don’t take advice from friends your age. Don’t bother with other activities— just focus completely on studies.
Uncle and I can agree on one thing: academics should be your highest priority. You’re in school to learn and get a degree. I disagree with his approach and delivery.
The summer before I began high school, an Uncle (maybe the same guy, but probably not) gave me some unsolicited advice for my next four years. He told me I should focus on studies. I shouldn’t worry about making friends, engaging in extra-curriculars, or anything else— just studies.
I agreed that academics should be my highest priority, but the rest of his advice was so anti- everything I believed. I just smiled and nodded. It was the only civil way to ensure he finished his spiel as quickly as possible.
Back then (and now), my goal was to be as well-rounded as possible. I wanted to be involved in as many things as I could juggle so I could get as much as I could out of every single day. I wanted a thorough experience. Nothing would be allowed to interfere with academics, but as long as I kept my grades up to my standards, I could take on as much as I could manage.
It meant coming early for student council and the school TV news and staying late for wrestling practice and art and math/ science fairs and everything else on the schedule, but I did it. And I loved it. And I had friends. And my grades didn’t suffer.
I was very busy, but it taught me time management. The more I had on my plate, the easier it was to make sure everything was taken care of— not just done for the sake of being done, but done well, done with attention to detail, done to my standards. I didn’t want to put my name on something I wasn’t proud of. I grew so much during high school, and that growth continued into and after college. I don’t want to ever stop growing or learning.
Emphasize a dedicated focus on academics, but don’t prevent these kids from developing other areas of their personalities and identities as well. Let these kids take chances and grow. It is possible to stay on top of your grades and maintain a balanced life. The kids need to know that.
Find the right balance for you and have an amazing time in college, kids. Make school your top priority, but don’t be afraid to learn and grow in and out of the classroom.
Anonymous asked: are you indian?
I usually answer questions privately via Ask, but this is the only way I can write back to you. There’s no need to keep your identity a secret!
My parents moved to the US from India in the late ’70s. I was born in America. As far as I know, I’m all-Indian, unless there was some secret hanky panky with English, Portuguese, or Dutch colonists way back. Way, way back.
Big Indian high school graduation thing
And I have so many hot opinions on the advice doled out by the uncles tonight. More when I get home.
Accents are relative, but
I like falling asleep to BBC radio.