Can you live with the story?

This week, a 17-year-old kid made a decision he’ll probably regret one day. He dramatically quit his part-time job at Walmart using the store intercom system, laced his message with profanity, and then posted a video to his Facebook page.

There is absolutely nothing unusual or wrong about an employee of any age quitting a job. If he really had been treated poorly by management, good for him for refusing to put up with it. You might even chalk it up to the kind of teenage decision making we all recall getting wrong at least once during those years of our lives.

But he probably wasn’t anticipating that the video would be picked up by the press, and that the articles would include his name. And now whenever anyone in the future Googles him—including colleges and potential employers—this is what Google is going to serve up.

Students, nobody expects you to be perfect. You get to make mistakes. In fact, you should make mistakes. That’s part of maturing. You learn the consequences of behaviors and actions and adjust if the outcomes don’t work for you. The teenage years should include some actions that make you shake your head later in life. Be a kid, because you are one.

But please remember that unlike any generation before, you’re living much of your life out loud, with photos and posts and other digital snapshots that will live on. I don’t have to answer for a single thing I ever did when I was 17. But whenever you bring something to the internet, you lose control of that story.

If I was him, I’d write an apology post. Not for quitting, and not one that excuses any mistreatment he believes he was subject to. Just something that acknowledges that he could have made the decision and expressed his complaints in a more appropriate way.

I don’t think what he did is so terrible, and I don’t want to muzzle the kid. I just wish he wouldn’t have to live with this story longer than he might like to.