My late father was a stick welder. My family is blue-collar. I come from rough stock. We don’t use college words, only four-letter ones—and improper conjunctions.


I have just graduated high school and I can’t go to college right away because I don’t really know what I want to do with my life right now, and my family doesn’t have money either, so what’s the point? I feel like such a loser because I’m not going. And I don’t know what I should do.

Anxiously awaiting your response,


Pleased to meet you, my name is Big Loser Senior.

You shouldn’t be writing me about this. I’m not a counselor, I’m not academic. I’m not even a real writer, truth be told. I accidentally fell into the literary lifestyle on a bet.

A little about me:

I didn’t go to college until I was a grown man. I worked.

A list of my loser jobs: hanging drywall, laying tile, commercial framing, laying sod, landscaping, house painting, scooping ice cream, hanging gutter, manning a deep-fryer, schucking oysters.

Power-washing, patting hamburgers, washing dishes, playing guitar in beer-joints, and dressing up like a mascot for a car-wash grand opening—on one occasion.

My late father was a stick welder. My family is blue-collar. I come from rough stock. We don’t use college words, only four-letter ones—and improper conjunctions.

We use phrases like: “Ain’t,” and “y’all,” and “hot aw-mighty.” And: “Want in one hand, tee-tee in the other; see which one fills up first.”

So I’m not your advice man.

Here’s what I will say: when I was nine, my father discovered I liked writing. One morning, he handed me a scrap of paper. Written on it were extra-large words, in sloppy handwriting.

I can still remember each word.

They were: munificent, obtuse, loquacious, prosaic, ostentatious, soliloquy, and verbose.

“What’s this?” I asked him.

“Writers need good vocabularies,” he said. “And your old man never went to college, he’s stupid. I picked the biggest words I could find in the dictionary.”

Of course, he wasn’t stupid. He could weld column splices with his eyes closed, discuss soil salinity, and the mating habits of pecan trees.

When I attended college, I went to honor him.

On my first day, I sat in an English class. The teacher said, “Write five-hundred words on why you’re attending college.”

I wrote a thousand words about a man who used to call himself stupid. And I used a few ten-dollar words which he taught me.

So, I can’t tell you whether you should go to school. Because there is no “should.”

Neither is there is a list of rules. If there were, I wouldn’t suggest you to follow them. Because rules can take the fun out of living.

What I can tell you is that some of the happiest people I know are “losers,” just like you and me.

They live in farmhouses, work on oil rigs, cook suppers on apartment stoves, struggle to pay bills, or weld column splices.

Nevertheless, you asked for my advice. So here it is. I have a list of words I’d like you to memorize. They are:

You are not a loser.

Congratulations on graduating. Now go enjoy your life.


  1. Diane Enloe - June 1, 2017 12:21 pm

    Sean… are amazing! Thank you for sharing your heart…. always. ❤️?

    • Joanna Spicer - January 18, 2019 3:08 pm

      To the author of the letter: Do something. If you want to go to college, don’t rule that out because you could go later. Also, talk to your school guidance counselor and ask about financial aid for students to attend college. I would suggest a community college to start. You can take a general studies curriculum if you are undecided on a major. Actually, that’s what I did. I started a respiratory therapy one year program at community college. It didn’t take long to figure out I had made a huge mistake. I just didn’t like it. So, I switched to general studies. These first two years are basically the same for all majors. After two years, you can transfer to a university to finish your bachelor’s degree. Just be certain your courses from community college will transfer to the university. Work with your advisor about credits and transferring . There are people who get paid to figure all this out for you. While in school, you might get a part time job. Many businesses will work with you if you let them know your college schedule to insure that your work hours don’t conflict with you clssses. If you choose to put college on the back burner for now, get a job. Getting a full time job would be best because those often come with benefits such as insurance. It’s okay to live with your family during this time so you can save some money. By all means, be very careful with credit cards. I suggest you get one card. Use it for purchases your normally make. Then pay it in full when you get the bill. This will help establish your credit. By the way, another option is a technical school if there is a vocation that interests you . I know this is a lot to digest. Discuss options with your family and counselor. In the end, this is your choice, so you have to choose what makes you happy.

  2. Carol Goodson - June 1, 2017 12:21 pm

    PLEASE don’t think of yourself as a loser because you are not going to college now! First of all, I myself attended college right out of high school but was too immature to be there at 18–so the time and money was wasted if you base it on what I learned, because I cut classes and played most of the time. Second, when I was fortunate enough to have the chance to work on another degree in my 40’s, I DID appreciate and make the most of the opportunity because I was mature enough (finally) to do that. Third, I spent my life in academia working as a librarian, and saw firsthand the huge number of kids who were there only because it was expected of them (like me) and who did not belong there either! Fourth, going to college (or not) has nothing to do with whether you are smart or will be successful: you should only go to college if it will provide something YOU need–and it’s not for everybody. Don’t let our screwed-up society, which insists that you are somehow “less worthy” if you don’t go, define success for YOU: you are unique and you should follow your own God-given path, whatever that is… and time will make that clear to you.

    • Mary - January 27, 2018 10:54 am

      Wow! Wonderfully stated and so very true. Life and success aren’t “one path fits all”.

  3. Sandra Blazynski - June 1, 2017 12:25 pm

    Authentic sharing is the greatest gift we can offer each other. You gave this young man the gift of helping him to see that he’s valuable right now, right where he is. Quite a graduation present.

  4. dana - June 1, 2017 12:29 pm


  5. Bobbie - June 1, 2017 12:54 pm

    Grand advice…hope all is well with Sean, as I see this is posted by Jamie.

  6. Terry Barber - June 1, 2017 12:55 pm

    One additional thought … live for today… live it well. Tomorrow will take care of itself

  7. Gayle Dawkins - June 1, 2017 1:08 pm

    Great job Jamie. You and Sean make a great team

  8. Naomi - June 1, 2017 1:09 pm

    I did not attend college until I was 40 years old. We raised 3 kids. The oldest graduated from high school the year I graduated from college. She is now a doctor. The second one graduated from high school the year I graduated with a masters. He is now a agri teacher. The youngest started kindergarten the year I started college. He is the reason I went to college. He was a special needs child and I knew that I needed to know more to be able to help him. I’ve been helping him for 33 years now and a few more kids along the way. I’ve just retired from teaching special education.
    You are not a failure. Life tends to shape you as you go, just get ready. You are very capable, or you wouldn’t have graduated from high school.

  9. Gene Bramlett - June 1, 2017 1:26 pm

    There is a lot of emphasis placed on young people to know from earliest memory what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. While I wasn’t regimented to a great degree when I was growing up, it was, nevertheless, expected of me that I would go to college out of high school. I did. And I was miserable and I would not settle down. I realized that I was wasting my parents’ money, my time, and a lot of energy. I withdrew from college and decided, on my own and against later advice from my contemporaries, to enlist in the military. I chose the Navy. Now, I’m not advocating the military for all people coming out of high school. It was for me, however, a good choice. In the course of my six-year enlistment, I sailed around the world, visited places I’d never have done on my own, and learned a lot about people who were different than I was, who may or may not have spoken English as even a third language, and whose religions practices and cultural traditions were foreign to me. Being in a constant state of wonder, I did learn a lot. Most important of the lessons I learned is what someone else said above. Life is an adventure, not a regimented series of expectations and demands. If you want to figure out what you want to do in life, go live. Maybe that will include learning. Maybe that will include framing houses, pouring concrete, wiring houses, digging ditches or cutting right-of-way (all of which I have done to one degree or another). At 63, I am now a pastor in the United Methodist Church, something that was so far off my personal radar screen as to be laughable had it been suggested to me earlier as a vocation. I didn’t enter the ministry until I was 55. It is your life, not mine, not your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles or grands. It took 55 years for me to grow into the vocation to which I am called. Perhaps you, too, are growing, just not in the same pot or same soil as those around you. I wish you peace. I wish you wonder. I wish you wander.

    • Donna Schoditsch - July 23, 2017 3:42 pm


  10. Susan in Georgia - June 1, 2017 1:49 pm

    What a beautiful gift! You just gave this high school graduate the best advice ever. I have a strong suspicion that this will prove to be the most valuable present this young person receives; one that will be remembered as long as he/she lives. I plan to share your story with my grandchildren who are currently in high school. Thank you, Sean.

  11. Dave Helms - June 1, 2017 1:51 pm

    I’ve always enjoyed the word loquacious. If I ever had a love child, a porch baby if you will, it would be a boy and I would name him Loquacious Demetrius Helms. But we would call him LD for short. This now seems unlikely, as I have entered the twilight. They damn sure can’t teach you to write in college. I mainly learned there that working hard got me farther than being smart. And I learned if you drank enough beer, the room would spin around.

    • Terry Barber - June 1, 2017 3:38 pm

      I always that loquacious grew on that bush at my mamaws house.. tasted like bad oranges.

  12. Suzanne Wright - June 1, 2017 2:12 pm

    Such a beautiful heart! Best advice for a young graduate I’ve EVER heard!

  13. Susan in Georgia - June 1, 2017 2:15 pm

    Just realized Jamie Dietrich wrote today’s blog, so thank YOU, Jamie 🙂

  14. Sheryl - June 1, 2017 2:58 pm

    Great article! I have always believed that it’s not the job you do that makes you a loser, just that you wouldn’t bother applying the best efforts to whatever it is you do. Love your blog. 🙂

  15. Jack Quanstrum - June 1, 2017 3:16 pm

    Love the story. Life’s a journey. I had my life planned out and slowly but surely it fall apart. My life become a obstacle course. Everytime I thought I was on the right course I failed. But I had two gifts from God. One I started to utilize when I was 15. The 2nd one kind of dropped in my lap. The 2nd become my job for 39 years. Both are blessings and gifts. Along the way I met some folks who became my friends, one my best friend to this day. As I look back there where huge waves crashing on to the shore, at the time and I thought they where crashing on me. But they weren’t. I was surfing them on a surfboard which I know now, that was constructed of my two gifts and my friends. God will help you surf your big waves, take a day at a time, each day is a gift and each day brings simple gifts that Sean writes about. Enjoy them. And keep on trucking. You will get there ever though you don’t know where your going. Enjoy the ride!

  16. Cheryl Nielsen - June 1, 2017 3:57 pm


    I am a college graduate. The most successful people I know are builders, plumbers, electricians, sheet rock finishers, welders. We forget these are the people who form the bedrock of our society. We turn to them in time of need when we are ankle deep in water, wringing our hands, with relief on our face when we see them. My father was the smartest man I know. He had no college education but could solve any math problem you had. He used his hands and brain and built a construction company as successful as any in the area with no engineering degree. I would trade in my college degree in order to be as useful. Thank you for your pieces. I read them every morning before I start my day. They give me a good, solid, positive start to my day. You have a true gift!

  17. Mark - June 1, 2017 4:49 pm

    Sean and Jamie,
    Thank you for your vulnerability. At some point in all our lives, really, at many points, it is our vulnerability that will be our strength. Sean, you show this to us. Jamie, you too. I believe when you own the vulnerability of feeling like a loser, inside you also have the courage to kick its ass. So, go kick some ass.

  18. Adrian Dyess - June 1, 2017 5:55 pm

    Plain blue collar english. I enjoy your stories. Lived alot them.

  19. Linda Daughtry - June 1, 2017 6:14 pm

    You should be on the Graduation Speaker circuit! Maybe you are!

    • Gerald - July 23, 2017 6:09 pm

      He is on the speaker (And player) circuit and can be booked.

  20. Kathy kyzar - June 1, 2017 8:56 pm

    Just FYI: None of the jobs you mentioned are “loser” jobs. They all have value. I can’t do half the stuff that you did. Just thankful that someone knew how to take care of the the things that I couldn’t. Even writing things like this to inspire si many people. You have managed to restore my faith in humanity! Can’t wait to see you in Andalusia on the 15th.

    • Lynda - June 1, 2017 11:00 pm

      how right you are!

  21. Karen Erwin-Brown - June 1, 2017 9:27 pm

    So good.

  22. Lynda - June 1, 2017 10:59 pm

    What great advice! I felt kind of like a loser as I lived many years as a stay-at-home mother and wife with an incomplete college education because I was surrounded by people who had their “degrees”. When I finally returned to college to finish my degree and then went on to get a graduate degree, I finally got it! I wasn’t any smarter or more clever than my uneducated self.

  23. Jerry Clemons - June 2, 2017 12:21 am

    I had no idea what to do when I graduated from high school. At the urging of a friend I joined the military – with the intention of putting in my four years and then going to college. Just before getting out I was offered the chance to go to Officer Candidate School to get commissioned as a Lieutenant. I took it. To be promoted to major (a necessary promotion or I would find myself a civilian) I would have to have a degree. It took me 10 years of night school and help from the Air Force to get a degree in Business and Economics. I was the only person in my entire family to complete college. They were farmers, mechanics, factory workers, salesmen, etc. But they were happy and led a reasonably prosperous life (we always had enough to eat and a decent roof over our heads). Don’t ever think of yourself as a loser. You will eventually figure out where you want to go and getting there may take what seems like forever. But never give up. When taking college courses at night, I always made certain I signed up for one or two courses for the next semester as soon as possible. I was always afraid to skip a semester for fear I would not start taking courses again. Good luck to you.

  24. Laura - June 2, 2017 3:55 pm

    I think you may have missed your calling! What wonderfully encouraging words for this young man. You’d be a great counselor!

    • Gerald - July 23, 2017 6:13 pm

      He already is–just doesn’t get paid for it.

  25. Peg Walton - June 3, 2017 4:41 pm

    An option this young man might consider is to look for Apprenticeship opportunities. If he has an interest in a trade, there are apprenticeship programs that include work based learning, so he can earn an income and be provided training/education in his field.

  26. Jenny Young - June 4, 2017 10:26 pm

    The only good thing I got from college was a great husband…seriously. We just celebrated out 30th wedding anniversary.

    Our son chose not to go to college even though he did have a college fund, a small one that wouldn’t have covered one semester in most schools. Now he’s 24, married & going to be a father in November & we couldn’t be prouder of him. Why? He went right to work at awful jobs as soon as he graduated. He kept applying at different places until he got an entry level job at a company he wanted to work for. It was awful but he kept working hard, applying for any promotion or transfer he was eligible to try for….getting turned down most of the time but still going for interviews, making good impressions & learning how to be better with each rejection. Now he has great pay, great benefits & some responsibility in his job. He hasn’t stopped…he’s still trying to promote.

    He’s dipped into his ‘college fund’, using it to pay for classes & training that will help him promote or for skills that will transfer well if he ever has to leave his job. He started his 401k at 18, bought his house at 21 & has been paying down debt to be mortgage free in a few years.

    His wife is the same, she’s worked just as hard & done just as well in her jobs.

    My son still says he may eventually go to college. But initially, he didn’t want to blow what little funds he had when he had no idea what he wanted to do. So he went to work, tried different things, learned from the hard jobs & made connections that have helped him. He’s been teachable. He hasn’t stopped learning because he’s not in a classroom.

    It is not failing to work hard…with your body or with your mind. It’s not failure to live within a budget & be faithful. To choose to be happy & find contentment in living a simple life.

    It so frustrates me that our schools turn out young people who think they’ve failed when they haven’t even tried anything yet.

    • Carol Goodson - June 4, 2017 10:44 pm

      Great testimony! Good for him, and for you for being so supportive!

  27. Jenny Young - June 4, 2017 10:36 pm

    Here’s a great Mike Rowe interview talking about those ‘loser’ jobs.

    And the blog it’s featured in, The Art of Manliness, is a great blog to follow if you want to improve yourself & keep growing better.

  28. Sylvia Williams - July 23, 2017 2:09 pm

    Great advise Sean! If degrees were given based on wonderful caring people, you and Jamie should have PhD’s..!

  29. Dick Sute - July 23, 2017 2:36 pm


    I have to disagree with you, there are no “loser jobs”. Every job is an education and an opportunity. Because of no fault of my own, I rode the town garbage truck the summer after I graduated from high school. At that time, there were no fancy plastic garbage cans with hinged tops. I picked up 55 gallon drums, number 3 wash tubs, and rotten cardboard boxes, and I was damned good at it. I went on to continue my education and have a successful career, but every time I see a garbage truck, I think back to that time and am proud that my boss told me that I was one of the best garbage men Foley ever had.

  30. Mary - July 23, 2017 2:55 pm

    Words for the young man – don’t give up! Start at a two year college. First two years are basics anyway. Go to financial aid. Get a basic grant you don’t have to pay back. Work every job you can to pay the rest. If you want it badly enough you’ll work for it. My family was poor poor poor! I went to a two year college on basic grant. Then aquired a scholarship. I worked every night at a sewing factory on my feet for eight hours. Went to school full time. Transferred to a bigger college for the last two years. Worked part time, aquired a scholarship and a loan and did the best I could. No family member paid for anything. Two years after school I paid off my loan. I taught school for many years before illness took over. If you want it, go get it!

  31. Jennifer Wells - July 23, 2017 3:40 pm

    I think that was excellent advice!

  32. Cindy Averitt - July 23, 2017 4:15 pm

    There is a current song that says “chase after the dream, don’t chase after the money”. Excellent advice. Take some time, find a job to support yourself. Find what you enjoy, do it. I was the first on either side of my family to finish college. I have taught for 34 years. People ask all the time, when are you going to retire. When I do not love what I am doing anymore, is when I will retire.

  33. Annette Bailey - July 23, 2017 9:10 pm

    Dear Sean….I went to college for a teaching degree because ever since the fifth grade, I wanted to teach. I got a music scholarship for a junior college and a grant that paid for the remaining two years. I married a pharmacist and only got to teach for a short while but it was a wonderful job. After we built a new Mom and Pop drugstore and I was needed so I became a pharmacist tech and counted pills, cleaned shelves, stocked shelves, worked in the office, took payroll to the bank, well….everything that I needed to do. I know many kids who went to college and don’t have a job. I know many who went to a tech school and had a job the minute the graduated. I enjoyed teaching but there weren’t enough permanent teaching jobs in my hometown. But I wouldn’t take anything for helping my husband for 38 years run a drugstore where people were our friends. Thanks Sean…that young man is not a loser!

  34. Ben smith - July 23, 2017 11:06 pm

    I am a fine one to say. But one thing’s for sure no matter how you might fell at the moment you can do anything you want you just made the first step. Hold you head high and start living your life. You will figure out what you want to do with it that’s a fact. Just think I am a welder.

  35. Mary Beth - July 24, 2017 3:01 am

    We were all created with a life purpose that fits with the gifts we were endowed with. Sometimes the gifts & passion take time to find each other & reach our reality. College is not for everyone & it is a difficult decision at the age of 18 to determine what it is we want to do for the rest of our lives. Most of us don’t know what ee want to do tomorrow, so the rest of your life can take some time. In the meanwhile, the only thing that constitutes a loser is someone who gives up or quits trying to find that passion. My mama always told me there was no shame in good honest work. Every job I have done has always ended up helping me down the road. One thing about knowledge & experience is that once you have it, nobody can take it away from you. No one can walk your walk but you & your steps don’t have anyone else’s. I am sure glad that your daddy had the foresight & ability to see your gift & passion & gave you the nudge to start on your journey. Wonderful words…wonderful advice.

  36. Melanie - January 27, 2018 9:24 pm

    Dear “Loser”,
    If you have the opportunity or free pass(scholarship, grants, etc.) to go to college right now, take it. Even if your just doing pre-requisites and don’t know what you want to do. I am now 29 years old, I work full time, and unfortunately I have to pay out of pocket to go to college. Because of my finances I am only able to take one class per semester, which has left me moving as slow as a sloth in my degree! However if there is something you enjoy that does not require some four year degree, do what you love. And do just that. But if you need a degree, don’t wait till your in my position.

    Melanie Chaney

  37. Kathryn Purnell - January 28, 2018 3:20 pm

    College is not for everyone. There are some wonderful Trade schools. Go to the financial aid department. You should have been told about all the grants that help kids go to college or trade school your senior year. If your parents can’t afford to send you, you will probably get a PELL Grant. What are your interest? Do you like to be outside or inside? You should have been given a questionnaire type exam that pointed out your interest and areas that you excelled in when you were in high school. The military is another option. I have had many students go in to the service and let the service pay for their education. If you think you know what you want to do, ask someone if you shadow them at work. The stars are no longer the limit!Good luck!

  38. Bonida - January 18, 2019 8:12 am

    Guess what Sean. NEITHER ARE YOU. Quit saying you aren’t a writer either. It makes me mad every time I see you use those words. Love your words but don’t like the ones where you put yourself down. <3

  39. Ruth Dickens - January 18, 2019 8:32 am

    When I graduated high school, I won 2 scholarships. My dad wouldn’t let me go to college because, in his words, I was ‘a slut and I would just get pregnant and disgrace the family. ‘ In those days you did what your parents told you. I didn’t go to college until I was 39 and had 16 years of marriage and an 8-year-old daughter. My advice? Get a job and take a couple of college classes. When you finish those, sign up for 2 more. All degrees start out with the same classes. By the time you decide what you want to be, you will have the basics behind you. Good luck.

  40. Cathy Cloud - January 18, 2019 10:16 am

    Told my daughter to figure out what she loved and we would figure out how to make money at it. She loved music so she played clarinet in band and made district honor band every year. She loved singing so she was in chorus. She got involved with local theatre at 12 and starred in many productions. She majored in music education and got her degree. She went into the Disney College Program and when it ended she opted to stay. She met her forever love and when he was offered a management position at Cedar Point in Ohio they went together. They got engaged 12/4/18 in Chicago and are planning a wedding in 2020. She works in Live Entertainment and auditions, hires, directs the casts of the shows. Living her dream!

  41. GigiBeth - January 18, 2019 6:40 pm

    Dear “Loser,”
    College degrees are not a requirement in life and I am here to testify to that. They are also not a measure or requirement for success. I had a goal for most of my life that required a college degree, but at age 61, I’m guessing that is not going to happen. And maybe there is a good reason for that. I have lived a successful life without that degree, and I’m thinking maybe God had another plan for me. I went to college off an on throughout my life with that degree just out of reach. But while I was doing that, I was living a very successful life. I raised a couple of children, one of my own and one that wasn’t (but really was). I had two successful careers that didn’t require that degree with a few different things thrown in. And I’m now at retirement age and feel very fulfilled, ready for the next chapter. Don’t tie your success to a college degree. Live your life a bit. Try a few different things. I’m thinking you will find out what you don’t like pretty quick, and if you decide you need a degree to reach the place you want to go, then go for it. College will still be there. But “loser” you are not.


Leave a Comment