A little levity is just the thing to lighten up a commencement ceremony:
Let's face it -- graduation ceremonies can be long, drawn-out, boring, sweaty affairs in which cap-and-gown clad adolescents or young adults and their family members squat on uncomfortable folding chairs in stuffy fieldhouses or under the hot, scorching sun for hours, listening to fairly mundane speechifying and a long list of names before having their ten seconds in the spotlight, during which they hope and pray that they (or their loved ones) don't do something mortifying like stumbling across the stage (graduates) or blowing an airhorn or ringing cowbells (family members) simply because the student actually managed to graduate from high school (or college). Yo, really??? You don't need to do The Wave because your baby got his or her diploma. It's not that much of an achievement in 2012.
One of those people who peaked in high school...
Part of the problem is the commencement address. Most are trite, repetitive and not written in especially soaring language that transcends space and time. (And I admit, neither is this blog -- but that's entirely beside the point.) What if commencement addresses could be distilled to their essence so that we got the message without all the repetitious medium, saving us hours of our precious lives and sweat?
Sea of sweating graduates
They might sound something like this:
"Find your passion. Believe in yourself. Do not let others define who you are. Have big dreams. Follow your heart and your intuition. Take action and get in the game. Do what you love. Be bold and courageous. Use your imagination and creativity. You do not need to be perfect. It's okay to fail. Do not give up. Live in the present moment. Think that you can do it. Take risks. Embrace change. Work hard, play hard and keep walking the path. Maintain your integrity. Give back. Keep learning."
There you go. All the wisdom of the world packed into two minutes or less (depending on how fast you talk)! Leaving the extended family much more time to sit around the kitchen or patio, arguing about politics, religion or whether the viewers who actually vote for "American Idol" contestants are biased in favor of WGWGs (white guys with guitars). Because it appears that some people actually care about such things. "American Idol," that is. And they presumbly graduated from high school. So 'nuff said about that achievement.
Chicago Tribune columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner: Mary Schmich
(In which we look at famous graduation addresses of the past)
This one filed under "Wish I'd Written That"
By Mary Schmich, one of my heroes:
Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.
I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself. Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me
Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements. (but first, learn more about how to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle )
Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.
Get plenty of calcium.
Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.
Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.
Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid
of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.
Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.
Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.
But trust me on the sunscreen.
To find out more about me, click on the Not Your Average Jo tab.