Mary Schmich famously told the class of ’97 to wear sunscreen. David Foster Wallace, in 2005, reminded the graduating class at Kenyon College that “this is water.” George Saunders shared his regrets last year with Syracuse University in a commencement speech that underscored kindness and in 2014, Amelia and myself have this to say:
To the graduating class of 2014, may we just say we can’t believe it’s 2014. We thought we’d have exploded by now, just like everyone predicted. It’s a wonder that we haven’t. But this also comes to show that contrary to predictions and that which makes them predictable, you can’t predict the future. But you can dict the pre.
We bet that whoever gave your actual graduation speech said that some of you are about to become doctors, or lawyers or business executives/weed dealers. But the truth is that if you’re reading Man Repeller you’re going to go on to become so much more: a painter who can’t actually paint, an athlete who hates exercise, or a writer whose vocabulary spans only five words. Conversely, you might become a plant even though you’re human, a carnivore even though you’re a vegetarian, or a juggler who’s afraid of balls.
Graduation speeches have historically suggested that you go above and beyond your limits. That you see yourself as better than you currently are. That you try to make yourself a more extreme and valuable version of the person you’ve spent your parent’s life savings becoming. That graduating college connotes the beginning of a new chapter, a wider future, a new life.
But frankly speaking, nothing changes.
As it shouldn’t.
Instead of coming home and ignoring your homework, you’ll go to your office and ignore e-mails.
You may be compelled to get a job — don’t. Street performing is more fun.
Or you may be compelled to take a gap year for travel to find yourself…which is fine, but if you’d just look in the mirror you’d see you’ve been found.
Remember, wherever you go, there you are. Literally. So stop looking.
We know you won’t technically be in college anymore, but hang around the campus anyway. Marvel in the glory days of yonder. Put the Super in Super Senior, and be that really creepy older person at freshman parties. The kind who makes people say, “Hey, you don’t go here anymore. Stop drinking our beer.”
Then remind them that they’re underage and you’re 35, so technically, you’re confiscating the beer.
Eat with your mouth full. Flip people off. Pinch butts in elevator.
Steal candy from babies.
Steal candy from grandmas.
Steal candy from candy shops and then throw it up on the carpet like a cat.
If you don’t have anything nice to say, say it. Then tweet it, screen shot-it, Instagram it at the person you’re referring to and then, like your own post.
Shave the hair off your best friend’s head while she’s sleeping.
Shave the eyebrows off your man friend while he’s sleeping.
Gather the hair from both of those people and then lacquer it to the floor of your enemy’s bathtub.
Go vintage shopping and loudly shout, “It smells old in here.”
Imagine what dicking around would “literally” look like.
Then try it.
Seize the day. Don’t wear sunscreen. That shit makes you greasy. Get a tan, get freckles, get wrinkles. Forget regret. Sing Rent loudly. Do worry about kindness, but if a fish asks you what water is, stare at him blankly.
Then eat him.
And through a mouthful of salmon, claim YOLO.
When someone hands you a card that says, “I hope you dance,” look at the giver square in the face and growl, “I won’t.” And someone will give you that card, you know. That and the book about all those rhyming places you’ll go.
The fact of the matter is, though, you’re not going anywhere.