graduates with diplomas

Pomp and Happenstance

It’s coming up on that time of year again, my friends.  Teens riddled with social ADHD sprinting across town every Saturday to go to five different parties, and Hallmark stores turning healthy profits off various signage and helium balloons in the shape of a ‘1’ and ‘4’.

Yes, it’s graduation time.  I can’t help but think about my own high school graduation about this time every year – when your humble author tipped the scales at 125 pounds, had never consumed alcohol, and thought he had a career in computer programming in store for him.  Suffice to say, things changed. 

Having endured my own high school ceremony’s painful valedictorian speech, and witnessing many since then, I can’t help but almost feel sorry for these kids and their wildly off-point dreams and assumptions regarding their future.

Watching a pimple-faced teen that 99% of the graduates don’t actually know try to string together five-syllable words and insert awkward pop-song lyrics in an egregious attempt to relate to the same classmates that spent the better part of the last four years ignoring them doesn’t really prepare you for much.

As a public service to today’s youth – and it really is all about the children – here’s a graduation speech you can use to actually help these poor saps about to go into six figures of debt to get their next degree.

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Hey guys, how are you?  First things first, I need to know which of the girls out there are 18 years old, so if you could please raise your hand for me…. ok…. good…. ok done.  Now, let’s get down to business.  Most importantly, if you have a girlfriend or boyfriend as of today, break up with them now.  It’s not going to last, and you will miss out on valuable hook-up time your freshman year – you never get those chances back.  Even if you do marry this person, you’ll be divorced by 25, and you’ll end up in a bar telling the story to someone sighing “I was too young to know any better”.

Next, I want you take all your awards, accomplishments, and certificates.  Collect them, and put them in a large, cardboard box.  Label that box “High School Accomplishments”.  Now take that box to your local public park, and find a pile of fresh dog feces.  Place your box next to the feces.  Take a few steps back, and look at both your box and the feces.  Realize that those two things are equally as important in determining your future.  The second you walk out of here today you are an adult with a clean slate, and no one really gives a rat’s ass that you were in National Honor Society.  For those of you going to college, in four months you’ll be sitting in a 600-seat lecture hall, taking notes or sleeping while no one knows or cares if you’re actually there.

Also, for the love of God, please don’t try to distinguish yourself at college with academic exploits – they are equally as pointless as your high school ones with the added cost of missing out on parties and bars.  Again, when you walk across that dais in some auditorium or arena at the end of your collegiate career, you are now part of a professional society that could care less what you did in college.  Don’t waste your time or energy trying to impress people with what you’ve accomplished after it’s done – they don’t care.  How much people like you and like working with you will be tenfold more important than the fact that you were in Honors College.  Actually, it’ll probably work against you, as no one likes to work with people hell-bent on proving their intellectual mettle.

Instead, spend your college years drinking.  A lot.  If you don’t end up naked, lost, or vomited on once a week, you’re doing something wrong.  If you could occupy one parcel of your brain with a memory of 4.0-ing a final or a memory of watching chicks pop their tops at Rick’s for a shot and then urinating in the trash can because you couldn’t wait for the bathroom – friend, go with the latter.  You will never, EVER, sit back and reminisce fondly on test scores with your friends.  The older you get, the more you realize that these precious memories are the currency in the economy of happiness, and you can’t make them with lofty GPA numbers.

Direct some of that energy you have budgeted for study for maintaining friendships.  It takes work to build lifelong friendships, and you’ll never meet better friends than the ones you do in college.  You spend the most critical years in determining your life with these people, and it’s stronger bond than you think.  Anyone willing to let you vomit in their car, then on their couch, and STILL buy you an Egg McMuffin the next morning is someone you want to keep nearby for life’s disasters down the road.

Accept the fact that no matter how much you’re excited about a career now, it will ultimately end up boiling down to doing it for the money, because you’ll be frustrated with the idiots you have to report to.  You will work for inept, socially maladjusted people that suck the passion for ideals out of you.  Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid that, you will slowly resent that the majority of your waking hours are spent out of your control servicing someone or something else, and you’ll start to marginalize that time in favor of personal time.   Your job will likely just become something you tolerate to finance what you actually enjoy doing.

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Love your family.  They have put up with your shit up to this point, and they’ll be there when everything else doesn’t work out.  You don’t have to understand each other, just love each other.

With that, I wish you the best of luck.  Keep the big picture in perspective, and remember : “Your memory will carry on / We’ll carry on”  Good night!

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