Ask not, ever1. Some people will say your college years are the best of your life—ignore them2. I find that, sometimes, when your miss your bus, you can run really fast and catch up to it at the next stop!3
Also: Write more letters, especially if you’re in jail4. Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a list of particulars, an appositive, an amplification, or an illustrative quotation. And for God’s sake don’t stomp on flaming paper bags5. If you’re bi-curious, experiment now; that window is about to close6. Spit only in the bathroom sink7. Never let a soprano out in the rain without a hat8. Listen without prejudice9. And get married as soon as possible10.
Don’t make generalizations—they will be wrong more often than not. Make friends with the elderly11. How often have I mused that all people from Florida smell like moldy pastrami to then be proved wrong by a Floridian with the musky scent of liquid smoke and ammonia.12
And remember: The only thing more undignified than having to beg strangers for money and food is being treated like you don’t exist, so even if you can’t give the homeless your money, at least be charitable with eye contact15. And always kick racism in the ball-sack!16
But no matter what you do in life, smile. Smile and the world smiles with you. Make a smile your umbrella. Smile, smiley, smile, smile, smile. Sssssssssmile. But never laugh—nobody likes a jackass17.
If a tai-chi master is close enough, he can suck all the energy out of your body and incorporate it into his. No sir, you never want to be in a foot race with a tai-chi master.After all, why would you want to be just a big-toothed fish in a small pond when you could be holding your own among the sharks18? Don’t install an Olympic-sized pool if you’re only going to swim the width19. And when your life is in the toilet and that blue water is swirling around your head, just remember: The sky is also blue, and as we all know, the sky’s the limit20. (It’s important to hope, but vodka does not remove bloodstains from white linen21.)
If you instantly regret the entrée you just ordered, you really don’t have to eat it; you can order a second one, and have a nice dinner21.
Because success, my friends, is not the measure of a man; height is the measure of a man22. Twice in eight years have I soiled myself at work, and I know lots of other people who have too—so when it comes time, remember, you’re not alone23. Also, avoid probing stares, enigmatic glances, fixating on the Other’s gaze24. The problems of the day are sufficient unto the day…unless you’re Catherine Zeta Jones, who should have many many more25. Tonight will be the last night of your life that drinking Everclear will be even remotely excusable; make it count26.
And beware of the metaphorical “dark stranger from the east”. He comes baring a long-lost possesion of yours, but something is wrong. Make him show you where he found it. Then tell him to meet you at the Havel bridge at midnight. If he shows up, then you will know whom he really works for. Metaphorically, that is.27
And not everyone needs a blog—I’m just saying30. In high school, a fellow I worked with mowing lawns said to me, “If you have mastered the art of tai chi, they won’t let you in the Olympics. Because if a tai-chi master is close enough, he can suck all the energy out of your body and incorporate it into his. No sir, you never want to be in a foot race with a tai-chi master.”31
However, if you’re going to binge drink, wear practical shoes32. It’s better to throw up when you’re still drunk than to wait until the following afternoon33. And never let your passport expire34. When you go out into the world, remember that you will stumble, you will fall, you will get up, you may fall again—but you will still get up, because you are first a graduate of this University, and second a debtor to Fannie Mae—and you will never be able to afford not to work. For those who are interested, there are Capitol One Visa applications available in the rotunda35.
What I’m saying is: When offered your first job, argue for more salary and stand your ground. You’re worth it36. And keep extra pants in your desk at work for that emergency I mentioned before37. And if you don’t know the difference between Philips head and flat head screwdrivers, learn; it will impress the plumbers38. And two last points: Buy good coffee beans instead of Starbucks lattés—at the end of the year, you’ll have saved enough money to take a vacation to Ireland39. And never eat at any restaurant that offers free balloons. Seriously40.
And, finally, never smoke anything with a “crypto” prefix in the name. And avoid the toll road when going home tonight. A tractor trailer flipped over on the interstate and traffic is backed up to the Occaquon. Everything is bumper to bumper on south past I-95.
It’s a mess out there people.41
9, 16, 33 Joshua Allen threw his graduation cap in the air and it soared in the breeze like a mighty raven. Then it fell back down to earth—not precipitously but like the best pilot in the world bringing his (or her!) plane into a perfect three-point landing. Except right there at the end one of the cap’s corners clipped Josh’s bio professor in the eye and detached his retina, which is really unfortunate and sad, but kind of funny because he did a whole lecture on retinas one time, and they had to dissect a cow eye and everything, and Josh knows it’s not funny like ha ha because he had to go to the hospital, but just sort of—just a little bit funny because really what are the odds. ↩
13, 24, 28 Patrick Ambrose graduated from Dorothea Dix Hospital in less than three weeks. ↩
10, 23, 37 Rosecrans Baldwin hopes to someday graduate from a two-bedroom apartment. ↩
5, 21, 40 Anthony Doerr graudated at some point. ↩
14, 20, 26, Liz Entman graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 1999, where the commencement speaker really did say, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” ↩
3, 6, 39 Because of limited ticket availability, Lauren Frey had to choose which set of parents to invite to her N.Y.U. graduation. ↩
8, 19, 31 Kevin Guilfoile graduated from the University of Notre Dame where he never saw a priest engage in inappropriate behavior, although he did know a seminarian who once choked a squirrel, which unfortunately is not a euphemism for anything. ↩
12, 27, 41 If his aphorisms teeter on the edge of complete uselessness, consider that Llew Hinkes’s high school graduation speaker spent half her time berating the jazz band for being too avant-garde. He’ll always remember her words, “You call that music?” ↩
4, 22, 32 Sarah Hepola’s parents videotaped the wrong person at her college graduation. ↩
7, 25, 34 The year Jessica Francis Kane graduated from Yale, the commencement speaker was Jodi Foster. Her message was something about the importance of “tasting broadly of life,” words that were impossible to take seriously given Silence of the Lambs had come out that year. ↩
15, 21, 30 Todd Levin’s senior quote, from his high school yearbook: “Paradise is exactly like where you are right now—only much, much better.”—Laurie Anderson. (He is truly relieved he didn’t go with his original idea: “I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts!!”—Ray Parker, Jr.) ↩
11, 29, 38 Clay Risen and his brother, graduating from different colleges in different years, both had Madeleine Albright for their commencement speaker. Their parents felt cheated. ↩
2, 18, 36 Kate Schlegel didn’t attend her graduation from Ohio University (class of ‘99). She was three states away, getting on with her life. ↩
1, 17, 35 Had Andrew Womack settled on a major in time, Dan Rather would have been his commencement speaker. Instead he graduated a semester late, and his speaker was the guy who had introduced Dan Rather. ↩