As you sit in your cap and gown in front of your parents, friends, and supporters, I hope you feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. (I am not really talking to those of you with blank diplomas because you still have work missing but your granny flew in from Sheboygan so they had to let you march). Making it through high school is a very important rite of passage. You are now men and women (or whatever in between you want to be) and no one can take that from you. Enjoy it!
Do not, however, feel too accomplished. There is still much work for you to do. Some will say that high school is the best four years of your life. Hopefully, that has been the case for you so far as high school has been totally wonderful. But if, like the rest of us you live on planet Earth, this is obviously not true. You’re awkward, full of acne, and even if you’re lucky enough to be hooking up with someone, you’re almost certainly bad at it. Just know that it gets a lot better after AP Physics. Embrace it! You don’t want to peak too soon; those that do usually end up selling knowck off jewelry on the street or telling boring stories at shitty happy hours still wearing their letterman’s jackets. Once you put a little space between yourself and all the classmates who saw you with braces for 6 years, things will start looking up.
For those of you who’ve been really popular — congratulations. Hopefully you won’t have a slow and embarrassing descent into a world of too much cosmetic surgery and belittling the help. Modern philosopher and feminist hero Judge Judy famously said, “Beauty fades; dumb is forever.” Wiser words have not been spoken. So read a book. Listen to just enough NPR to keep you informed but not so much that it takes the curl out of your hair. And try to remember that you’re a lot cuter working the fry-o-lator at 17 with your pigtails than you will be at 43. Ditch the ‘tude, sweetheart and keep your shit together.
Soon you’ll be off in the world to make your own impact. Chart the course that makes sense for you. If that isn’t college, don’t go! (And while we’re at it, don’t borrow more than $20,000 and don’t open a single credit card while you’re there). Just don’t be a bum. Spend as much time as you can stomach forcing yourself to work at the things you love. If you don’t love anything specific, learn to build websites or repair airplanes. You’ll always have a job and my generation won’t have to support you. We can barely support ourselves.
Remember no one owes you anything. The older you get the more ridiculous your sense of entitlement will be perceived. Don’t be afraid of saying “thank you” or of picking up your own trash. As much as we’re here to tell you how awesome you are, understand that the world does not actually revolve around you. Never has. Never will. Even if it does in your own house, know that it’s your house that is out of orbit.
As you graduate from seniors back among the ranks of lowly freshmen, appreciate the circle of life — the constant movement from top to bottom and back again. Today is your day. Enjoy it. But be prepared for when the world decides that it’s someone else’s turn to bask in the sun.
Congratulations on your commencement. Now go clean your rooms and change the world.