Start Me Up

Yet again, I have not been asked to give an address at any graduations this year.  No colleges, high schools, pre-schools or even schools of fish have requested to hear my words of wisdom.  I can only assume it's an oversight, because who wouldn't want my words of wisdom?

Obviously, these kids just want to party.  Patience, kids.

So, had I been offered a small honorarium, or a token doctorate, here's what I'd have said: 

Thank you, Dean,  It's an honor to be here at (School's Name) today.  Go Fightin' (Mascots)!!!  And to you, the Class of 2018, congratulations.

While you may wonder what I could possibly tell you that you don't already know, I can assure you, I've wondered that myself.  The fact is, the graduates of today are leaps and bounds ahead of people my age.  I was the class of 1997.  My degree is old enough to go out for a drink. And not just at (name of bar in town with loose rules).  Legally.

When I graduated, Google didn't exist, and wouldn't for another few years.  Cell phones were used only by a very few people, and they weren't smart phones, or even small phones.  Dial-up internet was as good as it got.  You are all young enough that you probably don't remember dial-up.  Or having a home phone.

In a lot of ways, I think you're all very lucky to have grown up with everything you need at your fingertips.  In a lot of ways, I don't envy you.  I never worried about my life being ruined by a quick glance at my social media.  I made plenty of mistakes - there's just not ample evidence of it.  No videos, no photos.

But you're not here to listen to me talk about me.  Which I could do for hours. 

Let's talk about you.  You're at a crossroads today.  After today, you are no longer what you were a week ago.  And that can be disconcerting.  Take some time to take stock in what you've been through before you move to what's next.  A few weeks, or so.  You no longer have the luxury of a gap year.

Once you've taken stock, you'll move to the next phase of your life. And that's where my advice begins.

Quit looking around at other people to make sure you're where you're supposed to be.  You already are.  Wherever you are is where you are supposed to be.

Because if you don't feel good with where you are, comparing yourself does nothing to change your situation. 

So don't freak out if Tim got into Law School, and Sarah is engaged to the love of her life, and Melanie took a killer job with a hot marketing firm in Boston, and Jacob is going to join the Peace Corps and head to Tanzania. 

That's them.  You do you.

It's easier than ever, with technology to compare your life to other people's - but remember - we typically put the good news out in public - the bad news doesn't make your Instagram, Snapchat, etc.   Tim may be going to law school but he really wants to be a forest ranger.  Sarah has an eating disorder she's fought for years.  Melanie is going to have a roommate who makes her cry weekly, and Jacob is going to have fungal infections in places you can't even imagine.

Everyone else's stuff looks better than yours from a distance.  But you need to take your experience and hone it until it's authentically yours.  If you are constantly living for the day you get promoted, or meet a nice girl, or sign a lease on the apartment of your dreams, you are missing out on the amazing things happening right now! 

At some point, you and your peers will all be more or less "caught up" with each other - make sure that you spend your time between now and then in the best ways possible.

My next item is - ask your family tons of questions now.  Write down things you want to have access to in the long term - stories, recipes, addresses, quotes, directions.  The sad fact is, at some point, someone you love will die - and all of their data dies with them.  So talk to people.  Listen to them.  It's not all going to be brilliant, but I bet you'll learn some neat stuff.

Learn to cook a few healthy meals.  It's going to help you stay well, save money, and it's attractive to potential partners.  There is literally no downside.  In this vein, invest in two really good knives.  One smaller, one bigger.  You can fill in the gaps with other cheap knives, but good knives make all the difference in the world.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.  Here  I mean family, friends, colleagues, mentors, healthcare professionals, clergy, tarot card readers.  Ask for what you need.  Nobody can guess what's going on with you.  Tell them!

Be a good tipper.  Learn how to calculate 20% in your head and use that knowledge to take care of people in the service industry. 

Collecting unemployment is nothing to be ashamed of.  Neither is working retail with a college diploma.  There is nothing dishonorable about doing what you need to do to get through gaps in employment.  I mean, maybe don't become a hooker or a heroin dealer, or a heroin dealing hooker, but Old Navy is usually hiring.  Uber driver!  It's a great way to make money and network.

The secret to good hair is twofold - you need the right cut.  Find someone you trust and who is accessible.  Having to wait four weeks to get an appointment does you no good.  Listen to the stylist when they subtly tell you the cut you have saved on Pinterest isn't a good idea for your face. 

The second key, and really - this is the one thing you absolutely need to remember from today - buy the damn products your stylist recommends.  It's tempting to think you can get by without the $25 jar of texturizer, but bite the bullet and do it.  Experiment over time to see if there are cheaper versions, but use product.  Your hair doesn't just magically style without a little chemical intervention.  This took me decades to learn.  I would cheap out on the $25 tube of wondergoo, then I'd spend $50 on headbands, cheaper ineffective goo, barrettes, hair spray, etc. to get the hair out of my face.  Just suck it up and invest in yourself.

That's it from me.  I hope that this day lives up to your expectations.  But remember - it's just a day, and there will be many more important days, and lots of boring ones.  Just remember on this day, and the rest to take a minute and thank the folks who helped get you there.

Congratulations, good luck, and lights on when it's raining.

Thank you.

It's good advice, even if you aren't a grad.  So, heed my words.  I'm also available as a lunch speaker at conferences.  Tell your friends.