It's the season for the commencement speech. Since I haven't been asked to speak anywhere, I decided to give you the commencement speech that rattles around my head. The one I have prepared in case some institution of higher learning calls me last minute. Or in the unlikely event my daughters ever ask me for advice.
Here are the bullets from my commencement speech:
- Yes, you keep hearing that the economy's in the toilet. You keep hearing that it's tougher than ever to get jobs, but don't panic and take a desperation job (something that usually arrives via a parents' friend and is extolled for its great benefits package). Too often people get stuck in jobs they never wanted in the first place. You don't have a mortgage. You don't have kids. One day you might have to be stuck somewhere, but that day's not today.
- Don't take a job thinking you'll leave it for one you really want in a year or two. I've had friends do just that. And guess what? Twenty years later, they're still at that job. And they still say they're leaving it—very soon. Yeah, when they retire! Or die!
- Before you know it, you will have more responsibilities than you can imagine. But right now, you just have to remember to brush your teeth. Don't worry too much about being unemployed or a bit driftless. Enjoy the downtime. Spend it figuring yourself out and what you really want to do.
- If you don't know what you want to do, there's nothing wrong with spending a year or two teaching English in Spain or lacrosse in New Zealand. Who knows? Maybe you can write a best-selling book about your experiences.
- Don't go into the family business if it's not for you. You'll just wind up hating your family. My father wanted me to be a lawyer so I could eventually take over his practice. Not a bad deal. The trouble was—I hate law! And could I ever pass the bar?
- Don't always take your parent's advice. Listen to them, but make your own decisions. Don't live a life trying to please others, because you'll have lots of regrets. And anger.
- Don't become envious of friends who have great careers while you're floundering. Trust that you will figure it out. And trust me— they're probably not as happy in it as you think.
- The friends you have made up until now will most likely be the best friends of your life. I don't know why this is, but it's true. When you're in college, friendships seem so easy to come by. As you get older, they become harder. Don't lose touch with these people. Realize how valuable they are.
- Over the years, you will become old and not as pretty as you are right now. You might even become fat, unemployed and divorced. Don't skip out on reunions or get togethers because you feel like a failure. Don't tell yourself you'll get it together and show up next time. Sometimes there's not a next time. And these are the times you need these events more than ever. They recharge you. Besides, my mom once told me that her friends look the same to her as they did when she first met them. I thought mom was crazy, but I get it now. My friends look just like they did in college. But then again, so do I!
- If your parents let you move home after college, don't feel you need to prove your independence by moving out right away. Once you move out, you're gone (for the most part). Enjoy this time with them. Really listen to them. Those days without your parents will come sooner than you think.
- Don't feel the need to impress anyone. One day, when you feel really satisfied with who you are, you'll realize how silly this is. With very few exceptions, the worst conversations start with, 'What do you do for a living?"
- Some boss will probably treat you like crap. Don't take it personally and don't be intimidated. Feel sorry for him/her. Realize that he or she is old, unhappy and unfulfilled. You are everything this person wishes he could be. I wish I'd known this instead of wondering what was wrong with me back in the day.
- Marrying the right person is the most important decision you will make. Don't marry someone when you haven't figured out who you are and what you want to do. I know too many forty-somethings who got married to fill a void. It worked for a while—they were distracted by kids—but now they're middle aged and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. And they have no idea!
- Make sure the person you decide to marry reads books. It may sound like a small thing, but it isn't. A person who doesn't read is dull. Imagine what you'll have to say to this non-reader in twenty years. "Gee, wasn't that episode of CSI Jupiter fascinating?"