From the Archives: 2001: A Graduation Odyssey

Good evening parents, grandparents, family and friends. Good evening Class of 2001. I would like to thank you for asking me to spend a few minutes talking to you on this very important day.

Graduation is the next door in the hallway of life. Graduation is the next rung on the ladder of life. Graduation is the next step in the stairway of life.

And that’s all a load of crap.

This is what your Valedictorian and Salutatorian are going to tell you, but frankly, what do they know about life? If they’d been out living it instead of studying, they wouldn’t be Valedictorian and Salutatorian, now would they?

No, my young friends, Graduating is like Dying.

Graduation is the closest you will ever come in life to attending your own funeral. Right now people are saying nice things about you, and telling you how proud of you they are. People are coming up and hugging you and crying and telling you they’re going to miss you and how nothing will be the same around here without you.

And tomorrow, they’re all going to forget you and get on with their lives. The coach has already figured out who’s going to replace you as quarterback. They’ve already got a new first chair in the clarinet section. The juniors are just waiting for you all to get out of their way.

But it’s not just those people out there who are moving on. Look around you. The people sitting next to you, some of them you’ve known for 12 years, some less. You’ve spent your childhood and puberty together, the highs and the lows. Ninety-five percent of them you will never have a meaningful conversation with again. Three percent you will talk to on occasion. Two percent will return your phone calls.

Graduating is like dying, and like the dead, you are now moving on to another plane of existence. It’s not Heaven. It’s not Hell. It’s called The Real World. Not The Real World like a bunch of punks living together with television cameras everywhere, but The Real World where there are decisions to be made and bills to pay and work to be done and Mom and Dad aren’t going to be there to bail your ass outta trouble.

Now at this point I’m supposed to say something inspirational, like “You are The Future” and “Soon you will be the World’s Leaders.”

But that’s all a load of crap too.

Funny thing about The Future. It never arrives. It’s always out there, just out of reach. See all those people out there — parents, grandparents, friends, strangers — do you think they’re just going to stand aside and say, “It’s all yours. Take over.” ?

Sorry. There is no future. Instead, you will be assimilated into the Here and Now, where there are decisions to be made and bills to pay and work to be done and Mom and Dad aren’t going to be there to bail your ass outta trouble.

At this point you may be saying, “Gee, this is a downer,” (OK, I know you’re really saying, “When is he going to shut up so we can go to the Rock Quarry and play Bingo and drink diet soda?”) but look, you’ve been lied to your whole life. Your folks lied to you about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Your teachers lied to you about George Washington and the Cherry Tree and how Cheaters Never Win. Those of you going off to college are in for a few more years of lies. I figure you deserve to hear the truth at least once.

I spent many an hour debating the Secret of Life in college, but I never learned it. Turns out college kids don’t know any more about life than you do. But I know it now, and I’m going to share it with you, because I like you.

The Secret of Life is to Roll With The Punches. Some of you may never get punched. Some of you will get punched pretty hard. But none of you will ever get punched so hard that you can’t get back up and look Life in the eye and say:

“Thank you, sir. May I have another?”

In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with some rules to live by that I’ve picked up in my travels. Admittedly, I haven’t traveled very far.

Marry well.

Pay the tab.

Let someone else pay the tab.

Your children may not turn out like you wanted. Love them anyway. After all, you made ’em.

Not everyone can be The Boss.

It’s OK if you don’t want to be The Boss.

The Boss will never be as smart as you are, and will never work as hard as you do.

If you end up being The Boss, be good to your employees. They’re smarter than you and they work harder.

The Right usually isn’t.

Neither is The Left.

Don’t be petty.

Call if you’re going to be late.

Don’t gloat.

It’s OK to have a bad day. It’s not OK to take it out on everyone else.

Bitching about it won’t change it.

Sometimes the best way to defuse a situation is to take the blame. Even if it’s not your fault.

It doesn’t matter who broke it. Just fix it.

Your friends shouldn’t always have to make the first move.

Meetings are a waste of time.

Life is too short to hate your job. (I got that one from my first boss, Joe Towne. It’s easier to live in principle than in practice.)

The secret to success is hard work and determination. Or parents in a position of power. And that’s why God created The Lottery.

Call your parents.

It’s all good.

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