Well here you are. You’ve made it. You’ve managed to avoid burning out completely, dying from alcohol poisoning or getting stabbed in the mouth by a jilted ex-girlfriend. You’ve made it through countless lectures, thesis papers and essays that never seemed to end and a litany of assignments and study groups that threatened to tear out the fabric of your young and fragile soul. You’ve achieved what many before you and many after you — albeit at a continuously rising cost — have achieved. You’ve graduated college. So pat yourself on the backs now little hats, cause shit is about to get weird.
The last four years of your life are nothing now. The time you spent learning, educating yourself for the reward of an embossed piece of paper with some cursive on it will be degraded on a daily basis. Sure, that piece of paper holds some value and let’s not forget the stress and emotional investment in getting that piece of paper. But that value will slowly turn into a small part of your past that will only be referred to as “those were the days”. From here forward you can no longer rely on a class schedule or structured text, unless you are planning on becoming a teacher, in which case I’d like to thank you for your sacrifice for our children and donate this case of Ramen.
Life is going to get strange kids. You are going to walk out of your apartment or parents basement tomorrow and look at the world in a different light. You are going to feel proud and empowered. Hold on to these feelings, because the world is going to do whatever it can to bash you in the face with reality until you succumb and dream everyday of a bridge without those giant concrete things keeping you from driving off it. You have two choices as you bask in the fresh glow of a college education and the hopefulness of the future. You can either stay the course, tighten that tie and buckle down or you can pull your dreams back out of the shoebox under your bed and follow those.
Many of you have degrees in practical and real world applications. Many of you hope to be doctors, lawyers and application developers. The world needs these things (well, perhaps not lawyers as much) and I thank you again for your choice to stay the path and keep the gears of the nation greased with litigation, healthcare doctrine and millions of lines of code. The rest of you, the lost and liberal arts students. The English majors and the artists, the band geeks and failed athletes — you have this one chance to find your direction before you fall into the proverbial meat grinder. You can truly change the world, all you have to do is let go of convention.
When I reached college freshman age I was thought fucked into believing there was a certain path to follow. I gave it the ‘ol college try. Five times. And while I’m not suggesting that your mentality about higher education and the path post-degree would be similar to my experience, the point is that you have fate in your hands. You control your destiny. I had to learn this through a series of miscalculations, egregious errors, copious amounts of weed and alcohol and adventures that bordered on criminal. Save for the adventures — cause that shit was fun as hell — I wish someone had told me that the path I was on was written in some manual somewhere that I didn’t have to follow. Alcoholism, drug use and bad behavior was caused by the stress of adhering to this supposed path that my parents seemed to believe was the one that every person my age should take. I was nineteen, I was confused and I was lost and I never finished college. Later in life I went back to college for psychology. Needless to say, I was kicked out of more than one class due to my satirical view of structured learning.
But you’ve made it! You’ve stayed the path and now you get to choose what happens next. You get to choose. Your parents don’t get to choose, your baby mama doesn’t get to choose, your teachers certainly don’t get to choose and your congressman is too busy texting pictures of his junk to an intern to care about choosing. You are in control. You get to see the future as it unfolds in front of you. You get to experience life without restriction, you get to escape to the big city to be a star, or spend your days painting landscapes and eking out a living. You get to find your happiness. If your happiness is wrapped up in a plastic and nylon cubicle chained to a Formica desk in a halogen sunrise — then so be it. I wish you the best of luck and hope that the soda machine in the break-room carries that flavor of Fanta that you like.
So the rest of you still paying attention; the dreamers, the cynics and the realists — get ready for failure.
Recently there has been a lot of published hatred towards your generation. While the millennials are getting the brunt of it, the analysis always ends with a dour outlook for generation Z. That right there should tell you what basket society places you in. They call you entitled, spoiled and pretentious. They call you egotistical and thinking you deserve things instead of earning things. While many of you do embody those traits, the rest of you stand with raised eyebrows and wonderment. You feel a sense of general humility and now outrage at the implication that you are nothing but self-serving pricks with outrageous entitlement demands. You are generation Z. This isn’t a spreadsheet. You are the last letter in the alphabet. There is no generation AA. The next generation will be a confused, fat and slow amalgamation of previous generations and technological mutations. You are the last human generation.
Which means many of you are going to fail. Miserably. Prepare your mind my friends. Lower your expectations. Feel the universe flowing through you and know that you are an insignificant speck on a floating ball of dirt and rock millions upon millions of miles from anything resembling intelligent life. You are the generation that will change everything. You are the generation that will create or destroy the future that my generation has begun to demolish. While that may seem like a lot of responsibility, well, it is. The sustainability of the human race is on your shoulders now and we have little room for error or procrastination. You can’t suck at the teet of the populace like the generation before you. You can’t build economies and structure like the baby boomer generation. Rather, you are charged with correcting the wrongs that have been set before you.
The key to this of course is a healthy breakfast. A glass of fresh orange juice, a couple eggs for protein — avoid under cooking the whites. A side of bacon and perhaps a croissant or some sourdough toast. A nice cup of coffee with cream and two sugars. You don’t have time to wake and bake anymore, you have responsibilities now. Maybe you’ll go out and just get a job, maybe you’ll find that your degree means nothing in a work space that underpays and undervalues employees. Maybe you’ll find that lacking real world experience and trying to get real world experience creates a hellish conundrum that drives you to depression and a humble destruction of your energized and positive spirit. Or maybe you’ll stumble across the building blocks of something revolutionary. Maybe you’ll change the world.
Listen, I’m not going to stand up here and lie to you. Some of you are going to be proper fucked. There is no silver lining for you folks, your backs are the ones the rest of us have to step on to rise to the top. This is the way of things, and while we say we can change these things, we cannot. It is not within our power. Yet, while your back might be stained with the boot marks of those heavier in social status and success, you are the gonzo adventurers, you are the ones that have your faces in the dirt for a reason. You are the explorers and the inventors — you are the ones that will rise up when the world needs you. While all the collared shirts kick you sideways and scramble to crush your dreams and steal your ideas, you are working on the ones they can’t steal. It is your future that will be embraced, after you are well compensated for the boot stomping you had to endure of course.
You see, there is a sick and twisted balance in the world. While the professionally downtrodden may feel as such, the successful cannot be so without those that elate them to such heights. Which side you are on depends on what you do tomorrow. You can walk out of these hallowed halls with your head up high and ready to find that success, or you can head back to your parents house and spend the next ten years working at a restaurant, waiting tables and telling every drunk at the bar that you have a liberal arts degree but are waiting for the right opportunity. It’ll never come. Let me repeat that — the right opportunity will never show up at your fucking doorstep with a tiny little bow and showing a little tit. Not with that attitude. You have to go out and get that opportunity. You have to hustle, you have to interact, you have to strive to be something.
Perhaps I’ve misled you with my cynicism. I appreciate a college degree and the sacrifices that you’ve made to be here today. I understand your need for higher education and the time that you put in to it. I get it. I feel you. But I don’t want you to leave here thinking that this is all you need. Because humanity needs you to succeed and you can’t do that thinking that humanity owes you success because of your commitment to the path of education. Humanity owes you nothing for the last four years — rather you owe humanity (and most likely the government, in the way of student loans). Your existence is not pure chance. Your presence here is not just luck and happenstance. Remember, you have to change the world for the better. You have to save us from what we’ve done. You have to build windmills. Well, perhaps not literally windmills, but if you aspire to study alternative energy sources that would be pretty awesome. Good luck finding the funding for that though.
One thing you are going to quickly learn is that the workforce is full of people like me. People who slap you with the harsh realities of the world, yet are willing to help you understand and see past them. While many will seek to crush your dreams — to yuck your yum — most of us will only seem like we are. We’re just testing your resolve. We are molding your young and pliable brains to think like us. We can’t help it. You will do it someday too, we all seek to build our own private army of subscribers and followers. I’d suggest watching out for this kind of thing, but honestly you might want to consider embracing it at every level. You are going to need all the help you can get. You are going to want someone around who cares enough about your dreams and future to challenge your perceptions, creating a stronger resolve to achieve something great.
And in the end, that’s what I want from all of you. I want to see that resolve to achieve something great. I want to see you succeed. I want to see you eclipse any of my successes or the successes of my peers with unparalleled greatness. I want to be the one you have to climb over to reach the top. I mean, in a gentle and fair manner of course — and ladies if you want to ditch the heels when you are stepping on my back it will be much appreciated. When you walk out of here today, I want you realize that you have only accomplished something that will lead to the real accomplishments. When you walk out of here today I want you to stop patting yourself on the back and bragging about your ability to suck a beer bong while playing video games with one eye closed behind your back. That shit doesn’t matter anymore.
So what does matter now? You matter. You matter now. It is your time to shine, your time to bake the magic muffins that will feed the ingenuity and creativity of the future. Your time to develop the next great idea, creation or state of being. Your time to shift the paradigm so we no longer use the word paradigm in a sentence to describe the paradigm. Like it has been said a billion times before me — be the change you want to see in the world. Become the humanity that doesn’t end with us fighting in a lonely desert over cans of oil and eating dog food while crazy people in masks circle the encampment.
Dream, create, hustle, exist, laugh, cry, love and so on. Shed the constraints of expectations and demands, of stereotypes and assumptions. Become more than a piece of paper, more than the box that humanity has already placed you in. Create a new world, for you, for me, for all of us. Congrats on making it this far; now don’t you fucking let me down.
Also, remember to employ a healthy fear of quicksand.