It’s the time of year. The time of the year when a certain group of people gets to put on robes and participate in ceremonies that celebrate several years’ worth of achievement, whether it be High School, College, Grad School, or Lebowskifest, it is an important right of passage. Recently, I read a commencement address from a man I respect, and it was everything I hoped it would be: Joss Whedon. It made me realize that I had some advice to give to the younger crowd. Now, while I did some of it last year, I have some new advice given my year of growing and changing. And it’s unlikely I’ll be giving the commencement anytime soon, except to my cats whom I’ve gathered and put in little caps and gowns. So here we have it: Bad Shakespeare’s advice for the various classes of 2013.
Do something stupid. I don’t mean stupid like repeatedly ram your head into a block of ice to see what happens. I mean... Do something that seems stupid at the time. Right now, you’re at the precipice of life. Literally, anything you want is in front of you, even the stupid dreams. ESPECIALLY the stupid dreams. Look, life is easy when you’re even younger than you are now... you want to be a ballerina or actor or dinosaur or writer or the guy that tells Natalie Portman she looks good in that dress... and then someone says, “hey. Be responsible. Get a real job!” Then you do it. And you end up languishing in a cubical for 10 years because hey... you got a real job! You’re miserable every single day, but you got that real job! Too quickly the backup jobs we take just while we try to do our own things become our “real jobs.” Don’t fall for that trap. Remember what you want to do. Remember who you want to be. I took a “real job” because someone told me that teaching wasn’t a real job. How’s that working out for me? (Spoiler: Not well.)
Understand that Life is an entity separate from your wants and needs, and Life is going to do what it damn well pleases with you. Call it Life, Fate, Karma, God, Zeus, Nic Cage... it doesn’t matter. Life decides it needs you somewhere, and Life is going to put you there, no matter what your plan is. Funny thing, “planning.” Normally while you are making that list and checking it twice to ensure that you have finished all the classes you need, or you’re on that path to be the youngest CEO of a company, Life has decided that you need to be somewhere else.. Life doesn’t care that you’ve managed to get your degree and on paper you’re the best damn door to door vacuum cleaner salesman in the upper northwest region. Life has decided you need to go down a different path, and that path involves you becoming a chef. Don’t fight it. Which brings me to...
Don’t ignore the big glowing signs in front of you. I know we’re not all religious or superstitious people. We don’t always look for signs, but they’re around. Sometimes it’s telling you that the person you’re with isn’t the person you’re supposed to be with. Sometimes it’s telling you not to take a job, just because it’s an easy path. Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that at the end of the day, life is pretty easy, actually, if you pay close attention to what it is trying to tell you. Hey, you like to work with microbes? Despite the fact that extra Grad School is difficult, maybe it’s saying you should be a scientist. Like bossing people around? Get a volcano and a cape and get to work on that death ray. (I’m sorry... Particle realignment weapon.) Sometimes it’s as easy as that. Sometimes it’s a raccoon dipping a piece of bacon in peanut butter that won’t let you get to your car. (If anyone figures the last one out, please let me know.)
Get rid of negative people. Humans are social creatures. And you want to cling to those people who you’ve known the longest, either out of loyalty or fear of losing a part of your past that you wish you could cling to. But as you evolve and change, they’re not always good for you. Sometimes they never were, and you just needed a quick jolt to realize that they’re way to selfish, or they’re taking your energy. It may mean a few times when you feel lonely, even if you aren’t. The important thing to remember is that just because you had those great moments with them (always cherish those great moments) understand and accept that you may not be able to repeat them. And sometimes that means saying goodbye to people, ending what you thought was a friendship to help you down your path. I’m not saying be mean, I’m not saying you have to get rid of your past, I’m just saying because Suzy was a great friend in college and you have a million great stories, doesn’t mean you have a million more with Suzy. Enjoy those memories. But time to move on.
Don’t make life difficult for other people. This one is important. Don’t be that guy who actively makes life difficult for someone else. If it means holding the door open, letting someone merge in front of you in heavy traffic (a cardinal sin here in Washington, DC) or just not espousing your negativity around people who don’t need it (no one wants to hear why you hate something they’ve done, or how you’re managing to one-up them), just don’t make life difficult for someone else. We’re all on ball of dirt and water floating through the vastness of space, billions of miles an hour with no way to stop or steer... we really don’t need to make it more difficult.
My last bit of advice, it’s never really too late. One of my favorite stories is about the last words of Voltaire, a particularly... we’ll just say “eccentric” writer. On is deathbed he was being given the last rights when someone asked him, “Do you renounce Satan?” To which he looked at the Priest and said, “I really don’t think now is the time to be making any enemies.” He ended things with a joke. It’s never too late to do what you want. Yeah, you may not be able to dance professionally. But you can still dance. You may not have anything published, but you can start a blog and at least get your writing out to your friends and a few random people. You can always go to the store and buy a few legos, put them together, and re-enact moments in Star Wars and end the prequel trilogy the way it should have ended. Just don’t wait too long.
So, various classes of 2013, go forth. Do great things. Even if that thing is great to only yourself or another person.