So I’m graduating in a couple of weeks, as are a lot of my friends. Not to mention, many of my friends and family members have already graduated, from high school and college. Tis the season of Graduation parties, which means graduation presents, which means each graduate can count on receiving a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go, maybe even more than one. You know this, I know this, and the bookstores know this too, as this book is most often taken out from the toddler picture book section and moved front and center with a bunch of other sentimental, sappy books pitched as graduation gifts. I’ve even seen the OTPYG books or otpigs for short, released as special graduation edition books, with spaces in the back to write down the year you graduated, and what school you graduated from. There’s also spots for photos and signatures from friends, like it’s a yearbook or something now. I’m normally all for giving books as gifts, but this is getting out of hand.
Otpigs may have been a cute, nostalgic, original gift once upon a time, but now it’s the equivalent of a birthday card you didn’t even sign. You can put more effort into a gift than that, and you know it. I’m pretty sure I might even have my old otpig from childhood, and one from when I graduated from high school, of course. I don’t need another. It’s not even my favorite Dr. Seuss book. I remember being creeped out by a picture in it with some creepy shadow lumps with angry eyes when I was little. My favorite Dr. Seuss story was probably the one about the Sneetches, those bird-like thingies that discriminated against each other based on whether they had a star on their bellies or not. Don’t tell me that doesn’t have helpful life advice. Plenty of his books do! If you have to, get one of those. It will be far more original.
Most other books to get graduates aren’t much better. Either they are equally sappy memento-like books with cute little bites of wisdom, or supposedly “practical” books about how to be an adult and/or college student. These gems are also full of unhelpful advice, but it goes more like “Do your taxes. Spend money carefully.” Or, for the college bound kids, “Study and be nice to your roommate!” Maybe some of these are specific enough to be helpful, but I’ve been looking all throughout these graduate advice books, and not found a single book that gives me in depth advice on how to feed myself on a budget, with only one sauce pan and two different types of spoons to cook with in my kitchen. Otpig will only help me there if someone ties it to a skillet pan and a spatula, or a can opener even.
Maybe you shouldn’t even get your grad a book. Maybe you can buy one back from them. They now have loads of textbooks they often had to pay a hundred plus dollars for that are of no use to them anymore. If you have the money, give them a full refund and then you get to walk away from the whole thing with a memento of your own, surprise twist! Sure, there are some websites and places that students can sell their textbooks on, but you usually can’t sell it back for full price. Depending on the numbers some of those sites name and how they deal with packaging and delivery costs, it could still be a net loss. Be the cool uncle or aunt that has a hundred or so to spare and pick up this now useless, out-of-date textbook on Adobe Illustrator or Eastern Philosophy. If it were me, I’d be happy to have some of my shelf space back, and have some can opener and non-plastic silverware money too.
Really though, I think one of the best book-gifts you could give a graduate is a book with nothing in it, a journal I mean. Instead of patronizing your graduate by giving them a bunch of advice and sermons or lectures about life success or whatever, advice that you didn’t even write, recognize that this is a time for beginning a new story of their own. Maybe they might have their own sage words to write down. They made it through high school and/or college somehow. They have stories. Maybe you don’t think your grad is a writer, and so this gift won’t be useful or appreciated. Well, they almost certainly aren’t still avid Dr. Seuss fans, and that wasn’t going to stop you from getting the a wretched otpig, was it ? There’s way more potential use for a journal notebook than an old children’s book that may or may not have terrified them as a child. I mean, it was just that one page, but c’mon guys, those eyes.
Maybe a nice but empty diary or journal really isn’t your grad’s speed. There are specialized journals with prompts and pages where you only write one line a day for five years or so. I have one I got from graduating high school, and its kind of fun to look back at how college freshman me answered the prompts senior me is now answering. I know they even have some themed around graduating and stuff. I think I may have even seen one inspired by Oh the Places You’ll Go. Maybe don’t get them that one. Other than that, there’s a wide variety of useful journals, diaries, or even sketchbooks. Finding one for your graduate that actually seems like it means something should be easy. With this gift, they’ll be able to tell people there own story, a new and never before heard one, not one Barnes and Noble is rolling out to sell by the crate-full this time of year.