Jacks Rules ~ Simple Advice for Grads

Published 2:51 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It’s time for my annual graduation column, always a difficult task because I try to stay away from preachy dictums (dicta?). Usually if an idea pops in my head, I’m able to fill the page with 700 words, but goodness! Are there any words of wisdom graduates haven’t already heard? And ignored?

First, I tried the formal route, writing: “If all that stands between the graduate and the top of the ladder is the ladder, as the saying goes, let’s talk about the rungs of that ladder. I’ve slipped on those rungs numerous times over the years, so blah blah blah.” How dull is that? Wasn’t working.

Why wasn’t it working? Because the rungs of that metaphorical ladder — grand, lofty and vague goals pertaining to education, attitude, diligence, etc. — have been hammered into the brains of young folks endlessly. They’ll hit the snooze button before they listen to them again.

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Instead, I submit this list of simple, concrete “Do Nots,” all pertinent to today’s social and cultural scene amongst the young. Yep, they’re preachy and graduates don’t want to hear them either. Sorry about that.

I pray graduates will accept the following unsophisticated list with the best wishes of this “elder,” who has been around 67 years and, indeed, has learned a thing or two on life’s ladder.


Dear Graduates,

This will be short and to the point. I’m not going to yak endlessly about grand goals and necessary attributes you must have to achieve those goals. I’m sure your mama and your senior English teacher have covered that. Instead, I offer you the “Jacks Rules For Surviving and Succeeding.”

1. Do not talk on your cell phone in public. Not only is that tacky, but everybody will hate you for invading their private space. Go behind a tree if you must chat while out and about. Note: Especially disconcerting to the general population is a chatter in the next bathroom stall. We don’t want to know your business!

2. In the same vein, do not text or chat on the phone while driving. Please. If you’re not wild about protecting your own life, think about everybody else’s. Pull off the road or into a parking lot and return that important call. The life you save may be mine.

3. Wear a belt and keep your britches up. That’s something else we don’t want to know about.

4. Do not chew gum in public. What’s that old saying about there being no difference between “a gum-chewing girl and a cud-chewing cow . . .”?

5. Watch your language. You are what you eat, right? Well, you’re also what you speak. Your language tells volumes about your intelligence and your character.

6. If you’re going on for further study, do not get behind in your classes. Make notes in class and transcribe those notes into a separate notebook before you hit the hay that very night. “Like I did,” (she says with a straight face).

7. Leaving home to live in a dorm or an apartment? Do not be a slob. Nasty is not good. Most roommates don’t like slobs, and you will find yourself friendless if you leave clothes, peanut butter sandwich remains, potato chip bags and beer cans lying around. You’ll also find yourself roommate-less.

8. And speaking of beer, be wary of anything — alcohol, drugs, etc. — that can take over your brain. You need all the brain cells you can get.

9. Make up your bed. Always. Unless you’re in it.

10. Do not smoke. You’ll coat your insides with tar, your teeth will turn yellow, your skin will wrinkle, and you’ll smell bad. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

11. Do not put personal information on the Internet. Facebook is fun, but use common sense.

12. And finally, be kind, be friendly, be nice. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

“The future lies before you/ Like a field of driven snow;/ Be careful how you tread it,/ For every step will show.” ~ Anon.

God bless you all!

(Write: bethjacks@hotmail.com)