Letter to my favorite grad


Dear A,

The second you were introduced to me as our new intern, I knew I liked you. You’re cheerful and cheeky without being sticky or cloying. You’re capable and ‘fessed up immediately when there was a mistake, and we could fix it together. I like your long ombre hair and I want to know what mascara you use. Most of all, I like that we became friends. You have a bountiful sense of adventure, a deep well of kindness, and a rollicking ride ahead of you.

I’m so proud of your newly minted masters’ degree, something I probably won’t get around to getting, ever. I know you didn’t ask for it, but here’s some advice you can take or leave as you see fit, but I wish someone had told me these things:

1. Understand the power you have: You are fiercely intelligent and boundlessly energetic. You have nothing to lose, yet. The people you will work for in big companies will be educated and experienced, but they haven’t been on the outside in a while, and they like things as they are. They will look puzzled when you tell them about your Google Glass PR class project that offered a secret parallel movie-going experience. Ignore those people, and find the people who get you, who get excited about what you can do and the places your mind can go. You will learn in five years what it took today’s directors and managers 25 years to understand. People will be jealous of you, but instead of waging a war, understand this and find a “compassion hook:” Think of them as sick wounded puppies and it will go a lot smoother.

2. If you want kids, find their father, sooner rather than later: Keep an eye out for someone who won’t run off to a Peace Corps gig in Uzbekistan, never to be heard from again, upon the news of your pregnancy. He should be able to look good on paper, stand completely against violence of any kind, and be willing to get on the floor and figure out the 12-piece school bus puzzle for the 487th time with your kid, and act like he’s effing Amerigo Vespucci discovering the New World. He will and should want to marry you. You may or may not want to do this, and chances are you will be over him by the time the first kid is in kindergarten. I don’t want you to wait until you’re 35 to start hunting for the guy you desperately want to have it all. It messes up your chakras and forces you to make poor decisions and gives all the power to the man, and then when you’re 38 or 40, you’re battling all kinds of fertility issues, like me and pretty much every single one of my friends. All I’m saying is to get pregnant while the gettin’ is good, because there’s a 50 percent chance you won’t end up with Baby Daddy anyway. But, hey, maybe it will be amazing and you’ll be one of those lucky couples who get to grow up together.

3. Watch out for too many heat-styling tools and hair chemicals. I know that hair grows out, but it’s never really the same.

4. Ask for crazy shit and see what you get. Work from home? Open a branch office in Paris? Develop a pet project that could skyrocket your personal stock? Someday, the right person will say yes. I wish I had asked for more money, more responsibility, more things that I wanted.

5. Read everything you can about money. And sock it away. Figure out a way to report a decent income so you can get a better deal on a car, a mortgage, and things you’ll probably need. When I was 22, I was making $100 to $200 a night bartending and cocktail waitressing. I would hang out with my other restaurant friends when I got off my shift, around midnight, then spend $40 on cabs zipping around New York, where we’d slap a $20 bill on the bar and not pay a cent for another drink. Then at 4 a.m., when the bars closed, we’d go to H & H bagels and watch the sun come up by the Hudson River Boat Basin. And I still had cash until I followed the love of my life to Gallup, New Mexico, where I’d blow the money I’d saved on a Ford F-150 pickup with dual gas tanks. There were no good service jobs to be had, but I did land an overnight gig at a radio station pre-recording the weather report from midnight until 6 a.m. six nights a week. I got paid less than the minimum wage. I would wander through the new Wal-Mart in town buying shit I didn’t need to mask the despair of whatever choices I’d made, and fell into a rabbit hole of debt. It took a long time to recover. Don’t be like me. But it is good to follow love, at least once.

6. You know everything in the first three seconds. When you walk into your prospective new workplace, and you think, “My, this seems like a dumpy and depressing place,” you will be right, despite the forced cheer of Friday waffles, “jeans day,” or whatever “motivation” they provide for people. When you meet a charming rogue and think immediately, “Oh, he’s an alcoholic,” you will be right, even though he will plaster over this fact by taking you to the ballet and getting you hot by reading Rumi to you in bed. When you know you should get a fresh set of eyes on an important email, your resume, your website and anything else critical to your success, you’re right. Wait, even if you have to ask people on Facebook to help you. There’s always someone up at 3 a.m. dying for something to do.

7. Your friends and your network will help you. Keep in touch with the people you did good work for. Ten years from now, you will be at a crossroads, and you’ll wonder what’s next. Then you will go on LinkedIn, or whatever takes its place, and scroll down a list of 20 key people and tell them you’re thinking of making a move, and can they please look out for something for you? And one of them will answer, “How much do you charge and when can you start?” And you will have restored faith in your abilities, and know that there is much greater possibility for you beyond the horizon you’ve set for yourself.

Go, go, go, my girl, blazing a trail in your bright and shiny new world. I will be watching, tears shimmering in my eyes, as you find your way. And I will be up at 3 a.m. to proof your resume if you need me to. Or, more likely, I may someday come asking you to proof mine.




Vanessa McGradyLetter to my favorite grad

Comments 2

  1. "A"

    thanks, vanessa. this is truly the best gift i could have ever received. thanks for sharing your wisdom and endless encouragement. i appreciate it now and forever (and ever and ever and ever).

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