Another Bad Commencement Address
Boys and girls, congratulations! When I was your age, college was much cheaper and twenty-year-olds were generally slimmer, humbler, more unsure, and better read. But you guys are going to do tremendous things, I can just feel it. Oh the witty, all-encompassing essays you’ll dash off on social media, the spiderweb connections you’ll make between Goethe and Star Wars and the labor movement, the cocktails you’ll mix, the mud races you’ll complete, the 1970's movie stars you’ll discover. But also, more important things, more lasting contributions, too. And I will be around to see it all, because my generation will, freakishly, outlive yours. So we’ll watch you, see how well you do, take stock, and write up your history for you. It will be sad to see you pass on to the next world, but we shall memorialize you in word and song, I can assure you.
On this, the last day of your college experience, my advice to you is in three parts — things you should do, things you shouldn’t do, and things that you will immediately forget because they make zero sense.
First: things you should do. You should get magnetic money clips and just carry a few hundred in twenties, in the clip, instead of a bulky wallet, when you’re on vacation. You should experiment with hair color early. Don’t wait unitl you start to go grey. You should befriend people you don’t like at all, I mean especially the people that just rub you the wrong way from the moment you meet them. You should drink soda whenever the mood strikes, but as soon as you find yourself drinking it as a matter of course, without a mood striking, desist immediately. You should go to law school.
Second, things you shouldn’t do: You should NOT eat sweet pickles, they are gross and too sugary — the ROI is bad. You should not church hop. You should not vote in the wrong district or flush cotton balls down the toilet. You shouldn’t get permanent tattoos, so dumb. Just get an artist to draw on you very carefully and beautifully with a sharpie.
Finally, things that you will forget right away because they make zero sense: The answers to life will never be revealed to you, not really, but at the same time, all the answers are being revealed to you at every moment that you are awake, and even through your dreams. (The tree branch. The cat’s meow. The paperwork and its intersection with your desires. The birth order of friends, french fries, who you marry, where you live, television, earthquakes.) There is a vast conspiracy of signs and symbols, all adding up to a complicated truth about what your life means and what you should do and why you are here. It is up to you to see the sense and believe it, or to continue to wander like a sick young goat through the desert. The purpose of life is death. Death is life. The conclusion to the story, the peace, the letting go, the finality, the erasure of all that came before that also ironically sets in stone as permanent as twice-baked diamond all that came before. God lives if you say so. God lives despite what you say. God is nothing. Everything is everything. Everything is nothing.
Congratulations on your schooling! Do well before you die, and don’t text while you’re driving. Thank you.