Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2015:
Most of you spent the last four, five, or six years in a shimmering bubble of post-adolescent privilege the likes of which you will never encounter again. You belong to a generation of optimistic idealists who want to leave the world a better place than you found it. But before you set out, a word of advice.
Get a clue of what you're really up against. Go get experiences that will highlight the unfiltered, brutal realities of the world. Here's how.
Get a stamp in your passport from a country with a lower GDP than California's. Ideally, head to a part of the world that was recently impacted by a dictator (Egypt, or Haiti). Mark Twain said, "Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel." The sooner you confront the reality and consequence of human cruelty and greed, the better you will understand the workings of the world.
Take a book, a paper book, and live it.
Try Hunter S. Thompson, who didn't just write stories but lived them. Pick one of your heroes and walk in their shoes. Wean yourself off of "electronic heroin." Ignore social media for a full week, and turn off your phone too. The best way I know how to recharge is to unplug, and I actively schedule time to shut off all media.
Test your physical limits...
Work a disgusting job that makes you stink, where you have to clean clam juice, asphalt, or animal excrement out from under your fingernails (see Dirty Jobs for inspiration). I spent evenings in college sweating it out while I hosed half-eaten Salisbury steak off plates and hauled them into the steaming industrial-grade dining hall dishwasher. Speaking of eating: eat food that's too hot, spicy, cold, or slimy. Sleep outside. Lift something so heavy it hurts. For a few days.
... And your emotional limits.
Face what really depresses or scares you. Volunteer in a pediatric cancer ward or go to a city in India where people sleep pushed up against each other on the street.
Visit someone who you should see more often, but don't. Hug them -- really hug them -- for at least 20 seconds. Nothing is more real than love.
And don't forget to wear sunscreen.
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