Humor by Chason Gordon. See below.
Originally appeared in The Capitol Hill Times, Seattle, June 21, 2012
Graduates, parents, and chancellors from all the colleges and universities across this city: once again you did not ask me to give the commencement speech at any of your fine institutions, which is perfectly understandable, as I have not garnered the accomplishment, accreditation, or respectable annual income to do so. On this we agree. By preventing me from drawing everyone down to my level, you have truly given your graduates a head start in this vast, chaotic world.
Of course I couldn’t help but notice some of the speakers the universities chose in my place. The University of Washington went with Lisa Jackson, an EPA administrator who was once named one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” which I guess is an accomplishment, if you subscribe to Time magazine (I’m more of a People magazine person myself). Seattle Pacific University went with Dr. Philip W. Eaton, the outgoing president, and Seattle University chose Timothy Egan, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times.
This one really irritated me, because we’re both columnists, in a way. Maybe The Capitol Hill Times doesn’t have the same outreach or prestige, and maybe our editor chooses stories by stomping his hoof twice, but you know what? I’m sorry, I’ve lost my point.
Today however is about the graduates, so let me rattle off a few things I picked up in my short time on this little blue rock (Europa). You can take them or leave them, or ask somebody to watch them and come back for them later. It makes no difference to me because I can’t see you right now.
As I look out onto a sea of faces before me, I see hope, fear, a desk, white walls, and carpeting, which I guess is my apartment. We sit here in celebration of hard work and potential, of all that passed and all that can be, and I..I’m sorry, I can’t do this. I had this little speech prepared, but I’d rather just type and edit from the heart.
College. It’s an array of buildings made of brick where people say things to other groups of people facing them. Occasionally there are exams to check who was paying attention, which is quite silly, because it’s much simpler to ask. College is a time of friendship and “let’s just be friends,” a time when a student opens himself up to all the learning the world has to offer, absorbs it, and turns it in 3 days late, to be docked 30 percent.
They say college is a bubble of reality, that everyone here has yet to enter into the real world, but in this time of sophisticated video games and holograms, who’s to say what’s real anymore? One could live in a nutshell and count themselves a king of infinite space, as soon as we genetically engineer giant rentable nutshells (I’ll mangle Shakespeare however I want to!). What’s important is that you spend this time expanding that bubble and keeping it airborne for as long as possible, because whether you’re going to grad school, moving in with your parents, or slumming it at a dead end job, that bubble will soon come crashing down, unless it attaches to another bubble, which is certainly possible with all these dishes.
It’s a scary world out there, especially when you’ve lost your phone. The economy, whose early work I much preferred, is still in a depressed state, and the resulting job market is nothing to write home about (unless you need help). You’ve seen countless articles about graduates facing harsh realities, tempering their expectations, and working in jobs that are nowhere near their field of study. Stop reading those articles. They are useless and will kill the naiveté and foolishness that are essential to a wondrous and charming life, whatever the hell that is.
I could throw a whole mess of clichés at you right now, that you need to stay true to yourself, find something to hold onto, don’t be someone you’re not, work hard, and never give up. I could say a lot of those things, and I’m going to, because I have no idea how to give advice to people. However you spend the next ten years of your life, just make sure that you don’t have to rationalize them for the subsequent ten years, otherwise you’ll wind up like one of those people who says 40 is the new 20.
Let me leave you with a few things. Try to have at least two pairs of pants. Only listen to your parents when they’re drunk. And finally, fly, soar, reach out and grab the world by its collar and shake it violently until the music stops and you’re awkwardly asked to leave. That’s the only way to live my friends, the only way.
Congratulations to the class of 2012!