Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of ’13
It is that time of year again. As the weather turns hotter and the ocean breeze picks up, I can feel the oncoming summer in my blood. I become rather restless in anticipation, but the timelessness of summer always makes me a bit nostalgic. Additionally, I teach high school, so this is always the time of year when the seniors prepare to graduate; it inevitably reminds me of my own graduation (class of 2000). During senior year, I remember often hearing this song on the radio, and I became fascinated by it (I even taped it off the radio! – that was hard to time, haha). Although I did not know it at the time, the song was an adaptation of the article “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young” by Mary Schmich. In it, she encourages any adult over the age of 26 to consider what they would say in a graduation speech. So, in a fit of inspiration, here is my own version, if I was talking to the seniors that are about to graduate.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of ’13:
Forget about your grades.
In the long run, they are absolutely meaningless. They do not measure who you are or what you know, and, in 20 years, no one will care who had the highest GPA in high school or college; and if they do, then in some ways they have never left. In the same way, no one will care what your job is; it is the least interesting thing about you. Do not let them define you.
Have an adventure. Have several. Staying young at heart is one of the best things you’ll ever do.
Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by details. If you do, know that one day you’ll wake up in your 40s and wonder what happened to the person you were in your 20s. Live deliberately, knowing that you, and only you, are responsible for your choices. Life is too short to not decide your own fate.
As much as possible, simplify your life.
Regularly cull your material possessions and clothes, or you’ll realize one day that most of your decisions are centered around a place big enough to store them and not centered around you. Do not let your possessions control you.They will not make you happy.
Embrace change. It is inevitable. Most of the frustrations in life are a result of trying to freeze things the way they are; you will only drive yourself crazy.
Discover your talents, whatever they are, and use them for the benefit of us all. You are not alone, and neither is anyone else. No matter what anyone else says, the only way that things will improve is if you all learn to help others.
Live lives of purpose and meaning.
Love others, even when you don’t want to. Even though you are unique, we all share a common humanity. Remember that no one is perfect, so learn to forgive others’ mistakes and to forgive your own. There is enough pain and suffering in this world. Do not add to it.
Instead, be the light that illuminates the darkness and the shadow.
Pursue your passions. Even when you like the same things as others, you have your own reasons for doing so. This is a large part of what makes you who you are.
Learn that not everyone grew up as you did and that people and places will not always be as you expect. Enjoy life for what it is, not what you hope it to be. Yet, understand that you have the power to change the lives of others. Use that power wisely..
Make it a habit to disconnect from gadgets and work, and forge bonds with those close to you. Do not let your life be defined by the pressing of buttons. Get to know your family. While you may want to leave them right now, when you’re older you’ll be thankful that you know where you came from.
Embrace hope and imagine the impossible, knowing that nothing will ever happen if you don’t try. Live whimsically, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
And seriously: forget about your grades.”