This isn’t going to be a long speech. But I guess I never really needed to say that. Because you would’ve figured it out at some point, probably the end, and either way you were probably going to listen, or at least humour me, until I’m finished talking. You’d probably be happier if I didn’t even mention the length of my speech. That only makes it longer, which as I’ve already assumed in my opening statement is something that you don’t want. If you wished for me to stop talking it would only be more satisfying to your presumed expectations of a lengthy speech by ending sooner. The preambling at least should come to a close, and so it shall.
At last, you have graduated from whatever program your parents led you to believe you wanted to go into four years ago, or the one your high school crush selected and you thought now’s your chance as long as you play your cards right and don’t get too overzealous, or the one whose building is closest to the parking lot and campus bar. But realistically, this should be called a continuance address. Commencement denotes a fresh beginning, a nu start, a steeper curve on life’s graph. And this is not that. It is another milestone that reminds you you’re on a worthy path, but it was never what you wanted. You never had enough fun in college, and you only think you had fun in high school. You told yourself that you had to keep working hard to get into a good post-graduate program, so you could responsibly earn an adult’s job and acquire your house and family and prepare for retirement.
While you’re young, do everything you can for a short amount of time, especially activities that make you uncomfortable. If you have certain skills, put them aside and pursue other ones. Don’t take the easy way out. You have the energy to move past failure and the openness to not only accept what comes your way but to soak in the new experiences and information without acrimony. You’ll end up closer to where you should be.
Get married when you’re twenty. Get married when you’re ninety. Get married to a tree. Join a cult. Start a band. Follow the fun. And turn away when the fun stops. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. But be willing to move on when they don’t anymore. Clinging to friendships is constructive for no one. None of it matters, so don’t force it our of fear or unease or false loyalty. No regets.
Do favours for people, and ask them to do favours for you. They’ll be happy to help. Try to maintain a balance. First impressions mean a lot. If someone likes you or they don’t like you, there’s practically nothing you can or will do that will make them change their mind. If you don’t believe me, think about what makes you change your mind about somebody after you’ve come up with their story in your head. Nobody thinks about you as much as you think they do. Nobody remembers what you did as much as you do. Accept this, and enjoy the relief. You’ll take bigger chances this way too.
Respond to questions in stories, not in answers. Focus wholly on one thing at a time. Take out your headphones. Be a regular somewhere. Be deliberate in your habits. End the rushed routine. Be curious. Go deep into a few subjects so you’ll have a few different references from everyone else. Coax the weird out of other people. The choice – and it is a choice – not to surround yourself with crazy people is just wrong. Elevate to medium talk immediately. Everything’s a game.
They say to picture the audience naked. I find it’s easier to picture them crying. Understanding their vulnerabilities, determining their fears. The man in the hat standing in the back who accidentally cut you off in traffic to get here has to go home to a girlfriend with disabilities who yells at him for being late after he rushes home from working two jobs to support her and her medical bills which aren’t covered by insurance because of a false claim she made in her past when she pretended her neck hurt after a car accident so she could stay home for an extra week watching her stories. He won’t leave her because he wasn’t raised like that, to just bounce when times get a little tough. He’s someone you can count on to be there, through it all. He’s here for his niece, whose parents couldn’t bother to attend.
The woman in the second row, she just got dumped, by an abusive boyfriend, but she doesn’t see it as the bounty that it is, because she’s convinced she loves him and he is the father of her unborn child. She begged him to take her back, but he said she wasn’t worth it, and no one would ever love her, and she believes him. She needs to, but doesn’t turn around and find that guy in the hat, and connect with him on enough of a level here and now that he’s help her realize she deserves to be appreciated, and he will to be the one to appreciate her. They would bump into each other later that week and end up going out for coffee. He’d feel awful about it but would ultimately leave his girlfriend, not for this new woman but partially because of something about her. They would get together, the relationship moving faster than either of them should have allowed considering their own recent personal issues, but still it would work for them. She would have the baby, the three of them would move into an apartment together, and he would raise the child like his own because it might as well have been. He would cook for her, treating the grocery store and the stove and the food and the plate and the dishes as necessary steps to seeing a genuine smile. She would introduce him to music that her parents used to listen to and they would go down to the only record store left in town and buy up old jazz records from the 40s. They’d go home and listen to the music and open a bottle of wine and light some candles, and then they’d laugh, as the feeling they couldn’t explain, the feeling that all humans in history who have ever been in love know, grew stronger until they both understood each other wholly at the same time.
But instead, she’s going to turn around after this story, see his ugly hat, and they’ll both go home alone if not lonely, for the rest of their lives.
It’s a little strange to think that I wrote this whole speech down before right now, like a few weeks ago. And then I memorized it, and decided in my head to say it, hoping that some of you found it funny, even though there’s no joke. But here we are, at the time when the end happens.