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dum dumdumdum dum dum

14 May 2009

Life’s funny. Sitting in Panera, working on my laptop, in a room with two mom-types studying basic political science notes. Like junior high social studies class stuff.
Across from me a guy with an eye patch is chatting with a guy on a laptop. Eyepatch guy just said “cool beans”…
…I’ve since relocated outside after some tables freed up. Eyepatch guy is just too distracting. It is lovely outside today. If only life could be eternally fall or spring. You know, the pretty, comfortable parts of the growth/life cycle, skipping the hibernation and burning in between. Wouldn’t that be nice.

In other news, I graduated from college three years ago today.
1095 days ago.
I had a unique transition because I worked at Drury for two years before I actually left for good. Still there was a moment when I was back on campus in July 2006, after I’d been at MSA for a month after graduation, when I realized campus just felt different. I had graduated, and my undergraduate experience was one I would never get back.

Now the kids who were freshmen when I was a senior are graduating themselves. In honor of that, and feeling a little sentimental (more than usual, even), I’ve scoured the internet for commencement speeches from some of my favorite people.
Enjoy and be inspired.
(And if you’re real dorky, follow the links to the full texts of each.)

Anne Lamott, Berkeley, 2003

You’ve heard this before, but the holy thing inside you really is that which causes you to seek it. You can’t buy it, lease it, rent it, date it or apply for it. The best job in the world can’t give it to you. Neither can success, or fame, or financial security — besides which, there ain’t no such thing. J.D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much money is enough?” and he said, “just a little bit more.”

Stephen Colbert, Knox College, 2006

Now will saying “yes” get you in trouble at times? Will saying “yes” lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”

Will Ferrell, Harvard Class Day, 2003

I do know this. You’re about to enter into a world filled with hypocrisy and doublespeak, a world in which your limo to the airport is often a half-hour late. In addition to not even being a limo at all; often times it’s a Lincoln Towncar. You’re about to enter a world where you ask your new assistant, Jamie, to bring you a tall, non-fat latte. And he comes back with a short soy cappuccino. Guess what, Jamie? You’re fired. Not too hard to get right, my friend.

Ira Glass, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, 2000

So, go into the world. Make something useful for other people. Set higher standards for yourself than anybody else is setting for you, your editors especially. Go the extra mile to be fair to people. Put in the extra work to understand them on their terms. And amuse yourself. Follow the thing that interests you and attracts you and amuse yourself. More than anything else that will lead to work that is valuable to other people. And understand every day how lucky you are to go this as a job. Best of luck to you. Try things until luck kicks in. Luck will always kick in.

David Sedaris, Princeton, 2006

I had many fine teachers during my years at Princeton, but the one I think of most often was my fortune-telling professor … When it came to our futures, she drew the line, no matter how hard we begged—and, I mean, we really tried. I was as let down as the next guy, but, in retrospect, I can see that she acted in our best interests. Look at yourself on the day that you graduated from college, then look at yourself today. I did that recently, and it was, like, “What the hell happened?”
The answer, of course, is life. What the hag chose not to foretell—and what we, in our certainty, could not have fathomed—is that stuff comes up. Weird doors open. People fall into things. Maybe the engineering whiz will wind up brewing cider, not because he has to but because he finds it challenging. Who knows? Maybe the athlete will bring peace to all nations, or the class moron will go on to become the President of the United States—though that’s more likely to happen at Harvard or Yale, schools that will pretty much let in anybody.

*** *** ***

I wrote a graduation speech myself, seven years ago. I read it in a packed gym, in front of my family and best friends, my teachers, people who had known me for 13 years, and, inevitably, some crying babies. I still have the notecards I used that night. I keep them in my very-important-documents box. Five oversized notecards hold the speech I printed out on my home computer, paragraphs in different colors to help me break it up into chunks. Certain words underlined in pen to help me remember emphasis.
I’ve kept it all these years because it symbolizes a moment I was really proud of. A moment I worked toward all through high school. A moment that is so far behind me, I can hardly identify with it anymore.
Here’s a little quote from it, and turns out I was right:

When we look back at high school, we’ll remember that we laughed, if we don’t remember what about; we’ll remember we were busy, if we don’t remember what we were doing. And from tonight, we’ll remember the feeling of accomplishment and completion, if wen don’t remember what was said.

I used to reread this speech in moments when i needed to be inspired or reminded that, at least once upon a time, I was smart and felt accomplished. Now it kind of serves more as a landmark of things-i-didn’t-know-but-i-know-now. That’s a long list.

I wonder how I’ll look at my life in another three years. Another seven. What’s scary, and also fortunate, is that right now I have absolutely no idea.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 14 May 2009 9:57 pm

    Yeah. I just finished another semester and I am rather reflective about it. Perhaps a post of my own would be fitting….

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