I am working on a new book that should be both funny, entertaining, and even maybe enlightening. This blog post represents the first of the series.
Here are the working titles:
Life After High School: Secrets To A Successful Life By Those Who Have Had 20 Years To Think About It
What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School
Are you from Generation X? I want to hear what you think! Please comment below and participate in the conversation about What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. What do you wish someone told you when you were eighteen?
This book is based on my recent 20-year high school reunion experience and an epiphany I had upon participating in it.
20-Year Reunion Book Project Overview and Synopsis
If only they told you what life would be like. I am going on an adventure down twenty years of memory lane to figure out exactly what they didn’t teach us in high school. This blog-to-book project includes an ongoing mountain of research, interviews with educators, a hilarious memoir and anecdotes from my life, as well as a collection of stories from my high school graduate colleagues who share wisdom to their 18-year-old selves, 20 years later. Look out for the time space continuum paradox!
After 20 years to ponder, Jesse Stoddard shares his amazing journey of overcoming adversity and challenge in the face of a real world much different from his idealized youth. The generation X classmates contribute letters to themselves if they could go back in time with the advice they would need to change their lives. As the backbone of the story, the author describes a 20-year journey from success to failure to success, with individual stories of his classmates peppered throughout, intertwined into a humorous and touching narrative.
This book aims to be approximately 65,000 words, and be in physical book format with approximately 260 pages. It will include graphic pop-outs with quotes and summarized life lessons from source interviews. If I get around to it, I might have someone create an index and I might even do some illustrations and cartoons. Most importantly, I will poke fun at myself for everyone’s entertainment.
Who is this book for?
About 3.5 million students are expected to graduate from high school in 2016–17, including 3.2 million students from public high schools and 0.3 million students from private high schools (National Center For Education Statistics).
Although many of these kids need to read a book like this, I would imagine that not that many of them are actually looking for it yet. However, their parents are, as a few popular titles on Amazon show. None of those titles handle the subject in quite the same way, however. Most of them are from a basic how-to perspective, full of practical steps to figure out college or jobs. Very few have a twenty year perspective from multiple people with diverse backgrounds like this one will.
In addition to the parents of the students, there are also Generation X readers, many of which have had their twenty-year reunions within the last few years.
Though the oldest Gen Xer is now 50, the Gen X population will still grow for a few more years. The Gen X population is projected to outnumber the Boomers in 2028 when there will be 64.6 million Gen Xers and 63.7 million Boomers. The Census Bureau projects that the Gen X population will peak at 65.8 million in 2018 (PewResearch Center).
I think anyone who is in high school, has a student in high school or is about to go through the high school reunion experience needs to read this book, so they can learn how to navigate the process, understand their emotional reactions, and make plans to improve their lives with the lessons contained therein.
Here is part one of the Preface/First Chapter:
When I said I was going to write a book about our twenty-year reunion, the initial reaction was not what I had hoped. I was thinking everyone would agree that it was a fantastic idea. True, some people did see it as something that they would be interested in, but I think they were just reacting to the idea that it represented a sort of extended yearbook, where they could compare and contrast ideas, memories, and life lessons with their former classmates. I don’t think anyone realized I meant it to be a book for the general public to read.
The impetus for broadening the audience outside of a small number of people in a small town was the implications of the wisdom gleaned from the project. There was no way I was going to let this unique perspective containing golden nuggets of wisdom and hidden gems of universal lessons to just die on the vine or remain anonymous.
I am a firm believer in the study of history (both contemporary and ancient). I think we need the lessons of the past to improve our success in the future and to avoid repeating mistakes. I believe that we have a responsibility to teach the next generation, and whether you have kids or not, the younger ones need leadership and look up to you as someone who has been there and done that. I also believe that the best way to prepare young people for the world is to help them to learn how to learn, not teach them what to think. The only way I have found to do that is to pursue and constantly seek wisdom. Knowledge comes and goes and can be manipulated or disputed, but true wisdom comes from principles, experience, pain, and failure. From our failures and our pain comes the seed of wonderful success and joy to those who choose to acknowledge it.
“Wait a minute,” you might be thinking, “you mean to tell me that you are counting your high school reunion as worthy of history books? Ha! How can that be?” Ok, ok, I admit it might sound a little far-fetched since none of my classmates have become Nobel prize winners or the President of the United States… yet. However, the fact remains that graduating high school as an event is such a long standing and established institution in our country, that we are all greatly affected by it regardless of whether we actually graduated or not. It is inevitable that we are all influenced by our culture, and being a teenager is unfortunately forever entwined in it.
Besides, as much as I love the stories of the extraordinary achievers, and those anomalies that belie statistical averages, most people do not become astronauts or Oscar winners. Most people live ordinary lives, by definition. No one could be extraordinary if there wasn’t first an ordinary. It also stands to reason, that there is much to learn from people in all walks of life and from all backgrounds who achieve any form of success, regardless of the time it takes them, whether or not they have yet arrived at some destination of mythical proportion, or if they end up famous in the media. I will go as far as to say there is just as much to learn from, if not more, from the failures, as failure itself is a very subjective term, and can be looked at in many ways. The only real way to fail is to quit, so each attempt that does not produce the fruit of the labor is a great learning opportunity for all of us to take heed of.
In this story, I have included a small, and yet not unremarkable, group of graduating young adults from a small, yet exceptional town. They are far from failures and have achieved levels of success commiserate with their definitions of the word. Success is relative to what the achiever sets his or her mind to, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and many of these people who started out in difficult situations now live enviable lives of relative happiness.
For me, this process of discovery is so fraught with giddy school girl gumption that I nearly giggle in glee. It makes me feel a bit like Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies (cue music)… “Oil that is, Black Gold, Texas Tea!” …Eureka!
My twenty-year high school reunion was held on September 10th, 2016. I was born on September 13th, 1977 (making me nearly nine and thirty years at the time of the event), and my wife and I had just celebrated her birthday and our 12th wedding anniversary on September 6th, so it was a busy few weeks for us. Technically, I had gone to two high schools, as I spent my freshman year at Mental Jail, I mean Meadowdale High School, in Lynnwood, Washington, before my parents moved us to Anacortes in the summer of 1993. I had one last get together with my buddies from my childhood at the house in Anacortes, thinking we would visit all the time. I ended up not seeing them until college, and instead had a nice reprieve from the gang warfare stabbings at Mental Jail and started what would be an incredible journey in a new and “foreign” town that might as well been in Canada it was so far north. Anacortes was where I graduated, and where I feel I went through this pivotal right of passage.
Although I do take the opportunity to tell my story, I am far more amazed and fascinated with the stories of my fellow classmates. I think we all have an innate interest in the stories of our peers, and focusing only on my experience would not only be egotistical, it would be vainly self-aggrandizing. I encourage you to read every story with a fresh set of eyes and to also avoid the temptation to judge too quickly. Many of the people here made choices or have opinions that you will undoubtedly not agree with at first glance. It is very human to make snap judgments but remember you have not walked in their shoes. My hope is that through their story you will be able to at least imagine being on the hike with them, and perhaps give you some pause to realize your own path may be fraught with similar rocky terrain and difficult decisions. If we are really fortunate, you may even get a chance to share this with a young person of high school or college age who may need additional stories that serve as layers of credibility that go beyond one person’s opinion.
In other words, I implore you to help someone not repeat all my miserable mistakes at the very least!
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