David Cain’s advice to teenagers: “Waste no energy earning respect in high school”

David Cain writes great stuff and is well worth adding to your must-reads.

This is from his post, “An Open Letter to My 15-Year-Old Self Just Before the Start of High School”:

“None of the respect you earn in high school will buy you anything after you leave high school. It’s like working at Canadian Tire for a summer and getting paid only in Canadian Tire money. Waste no energy earning respect in high school. Spend it instead wandering every sidestreet of geekdom and subculture you pass by. Instead of finding scraps of approval from uncool people, you will end up finding something real and lasting in Brian Eno or Nietzsche or Margaret Atwood or Public Radio. Find those grooves of meaning that you can follow into adulthood. When people give you a hard time for liking what you like, that’s a sign you’re on the right track. You are uncovering veins of precious metals; they are scrounging for nearly-expired coupons.”


And this, too:

“Get over any desire to be normal. The desire to be normal is its own perversion. Some people do achieve the appearance of normalness, which means they have successfully hidden or beaten down everything about them that is interesting or memorable in the hopes that they become impervious to criticism. Go the other way. The great joke here is that nobody has ever been normal.”

The whole post is solid. There is probably a teenager in your life who ought to read it. But most of us are still challenged by some of the same tensions we faced in high school.