To the Class of 2010

Another graduation season has come. Yes, it is that time of year again.

Invitations have gone out in the hopes to prompt long-lost relatives to repondez s’il vous plait, or at least send money.

To top it all off is the ceremony itself.

A long-winded affair in which the valedictorian or a guest speaker tells the assembled students that “individuality is the key to success,” all while they are dressed in identical mortarboard caps and gowns.

Do I sound cynical? Maybe I am.

You see, once again I have not been invited to deliver the commencement speech at Oxford or even Harvard.

I am sure there must have been some oversight on the part of the administration, no doubt due to the hustle and bustle that comes toward the end of the academic year.

Even when I contacted a number of local high schools and higher-learning institutions to see if such an invitation was forthcoming, I could tell there was a great deal of confusion and almost everyone I talked to could only respond in the negative.

“No, we’re not having a guest speaker this year,” said some and “Who are you and why do you keep calling?” said others, while one perturbed administrator growled, “Please stop sending me e-mails or we’re going to contact the police.”

So, without a venue with which I could share some pearls of wisdom with the next generation, I decided to dispense some  advice from my meandering experience here … even though I have serious doubts that anyone under 40 even reads a newspaper anymore.

All kidding aside, I would like to address the Class of 2010…
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I would invite you to look around.

Take a close look at those in your class whom you hold dear, those to whom you are only marginally connected, and those that you scarcely know at all.

Look at them and know that this is quite possibly the closest you will ever be with them. Friends come and go. With enough time and neglect, all paths become overgrown and the friendships of one’s youth can easily fall by the wayside.

Do not hasten into adulthood. Despite the provisions of law and human biology, none of you are really adults at 18. Some of you may never reach this threshold.

By the time you are finally old enough to be as taken seriously as you want to be, you will wish you were young enough to still be irresponsible. Do you get that? If so, explain it to me, because I am 33 years old and still don’t buy it.

Maturity has less to do with physiological development and everything to with that of the spirit and intellect, but never forsake one for the other.

Know that you will change… a lot.

Your taut and toned physiques will inevitably lose their battle with metabolism and gravity. Your wide-eyed idealism and vaulting ambition will surrender to realism and contentment. You will forget the things that are most important to you now and will remember many of the opportunities in your youth that slipped through your fingers.

Don’t be alarmed if you don’t know what you’re going to do with your life. There is a good chance the job you’ll eventually want hasn’t been invented yet.

Some of you will have a spouse and children before your 10th class reunion; some of you will be dead and buried well before then. Few things turn out the way you expect them.

Take this as a given and don’t worry about the next speed-bump in your highway. There is a logic at work, even though we often cannot see where the road leads.

It is a well-worn cliché to tell you to think of your young lives as a great story and that this is only a beginning chapter, but that doesn’t make it any less true. As you continue to grow, you will find that such clichés are so well-worn for precisely this reason.

As a writer, I can think of nothing better to illustrate both how crucial and far-reaching your lives are.

Think on what few days you have lived thus far, and see the slim volumes of your childhood. See how what few pages you have filled already have affected so much of your existence, and know that this work will only expand.

You cannot tear out the pages; neither can you make any edits or rewrites, though you can always turn to the next page.

This story never ends but becomes another text in vast library of human existence, to be read and understood by those who will come after you.

While the story drags in parts and can be a bit overwrought in others, it can also become filled with such beauty if written well.

Every author makes choices about how his or her story will develop, and you may not be able to see how each chapter is resolved.

I can tell you that you are writing your own story but I cannot tell you how to write it. You must do that for yourself.

Godspeed, graduates of the Class of 2010, may you live and be well.

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