For What it’s Worth

To the class of 2012

by Cherri Ellis

This column originally ran last year. It has been updated and offered again thanks to its timeless advice…

congrats to mickey here who CLEARLY just graduated and to the rest of the class of 2012

I would like a word with the graduating class of 2012.  Listen up, because I have been burdened with wisdom far greater than what is immediately apparent.

I would begin by saying to this group of graduates that you are an amazing group of human beings.  On this day, as you accept your diploma, revel in your own sense of awesomeness.  Realize that in some ways, at this moment, you are as smart as you will ever be.  If you don’t believe me, take a page of your calculus homework, put it up for 20 years, then get it out and try to complete it.    Right now you can do it in the back of your friend’s car on three hours of sleep with music blasting while you eat a Hot Pocket.  In 20 years, nothing.  You will look at it like a monkey looks at hieroglyphics.  So celebrate yourself and your youthful acuity today!  Embrace your brain cells, for they are as plentiful as they will ever be.  High five yourself.  Scream like you’re in the front row at Bonnaroo.  Give yourself a standing ovation.  You have absolutely earned it.

No pressure, but we are sort of counting on you.  You are the generation that will cure cancer, fix healthcare and save the planet.  Let me see by a show of hands how many of you have helped your parent with a Power Point they were doing for one of those JOBS they’re always complaining about.  The first time you helped your parents with anything on the computer you were… what?  Eight years old?

I marvel at your potential.  You are the first native online generation.   You have literally grown up on the lnternet.  Because of this, you expect your information to be obtained at increasingly faster speeds.  It’s not that your attention spans are shorter — it’s that you need less time to process stimuli.  You can sit in front of a television with a computer in your lap and a cellphone in your hand and wish you had something to do.  Two generations ago that would have given someone a seizure.

When the telephone was invented, it took 75 years for it to acquire 50 million users.  When the television came along, it took 13 years to get the same amount.  Know how long it took to acquire 50 million users on the Internet?  Five years.   Your parents think they’re cool because they learned how to text.  You can text from an AP English class with your hand buried in your backpack and never take your eyes off the smart board.   I love it.  The world needs those fine motor skills in its surgical suites.

So get out there and live your life.  As you do, remember these things:

Love yourself. You will be in your own company for longer than anyone else’s.  From this day forward, quit thinking about what anybody thinks of you.  There are some aspects of high school that will parallel eternity for you.  Writing a paper at the last minute for your teacher is not unlike making a report at the last minute for your boss.   But there are some aspects of high school that you can now leave behind and do so joyfully.  I challenge you to never spend another second trying to fit in to any group of people who do not make you feel like you are the BOMB.   You only have so many minutes on this planet, so surround yourself with people who see you for who you are.   Not everyone will love you, but learning to operate under someone else’s disdain is part of growing older.    It will help you survive a tough boss, a loved one’s ex, or someone to whom you must say no.  It is possible.  On rare occasions, it is actually pleasurable.    So if someone is unkind to you, let them go.  Your future is not tied to anyone whose back you see as they walk away.

Across the board, as a matter of policy, do your best.  When you do mess up, apologize instantly and sincerely.  Say it from the heart, accept the blame and move on.   Purgatory’s for suckers.

Don’t feel fat.   The images you see in magazines have been Photoshopped beyond an inch of their lives.  Your body is the most amazing machine you will ever drive, so drop it into gear, give it some gas and enjoy the ride.   Instead of texting while you drive (which will eventually get you killed) try SINGING.  When you’re spotted, roll down the windows and sing louder.  Bang out drum riffs on the steering wheel.   Don’t just listen to your inner voice — harmonize with it.  You guys sound great together.

Give back in whatever way you can.  Volunteering is a sure way of gauging your place in life, and it’ll help you keep perspective.  Everyone cares about something.  Find out what you care about and throw a little energy its way.  I don’t want to make you paranoid, but know that there is actually a giant dry-erase board somewhere in the universe that is tracking what you gave and what you took, so volunteer.   It’s the right thing to do, and you’ll most likely need the bonus points.

You will need to work.  Not working not only creates resentment from those around you who do work, but it limits your ability to buy things that you want in a timely manner.  While at work, be on guard for any sentences that start with the words “in the future” or “effective immediately.”   Nothing good ever follows.  Work is only fun when it involves a lot of positive feedback, and you only get positive feedback when you do something very well, so find out what it is that you like to do and then get really, really good at it.   Before you know it, you will have a career instead of a job, and you will own better electronics.

That’s about it for advice from me.  Except… Respond to love.  Ignore negativity.  Don’t drink Everclear.  Avoid visible panty lines.  Be nice.  Call your Mother.  Use sunscreen.  Get enough sleep.  And finally, receiving news that you are pre-approved for a credit card does not mean that you need to activate it.

Now go get ‘em, Tiger.

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