My 2024 Commencement Address

After years of trying and failing to get selected as a commencement speaker at an institute of learning, I finally got a response. Granted, it was a restraining order, but I count that as a victory.

Aside from that legal paperwork, I am still waiting for that call, email, text, note tied to a rock thrown through a window, etc., so I can wow them with my rhetorical prowess. Or just get a nice check for talking for a few minutes.

Hello, soon-to-be-graduates of [insert name of educational institution]! As you prepare for the next stage of your lives, I’ve been asked to give you some words of inspiration to send you off in style, ready to take on the world. But instead, I’m going to level with you.

As the great philosophers Three 6 Mafia once said, “it’s hard out there for a pimp.” And when you consider pimping is selling sex, you know if it’s hard for them, it’s bad. I mean, really bad. And you know who’s to blame?

Taylor Swift.

I mean, she’s being blamed for everything else, so why not throw her under the bus for this?

Seriously, the world you’re about to enter is vastly different than what you may believe it to be. Up until now, you’ve been on Easy Mode. Sure, you may have had some hiccups along the way, but nothing you (or your parents) couldn’t overcome. Once you graduate, the difficulty level goes up.

Now, you’ll be expected to fend for yourselves, whether it be in college, the military, the trades, or the corporate world. While it could be done in previous years, it’s not quite as easy as it once was. Prices have gone up, wages have been stagnant, and any starting position won’t be as glamorous or as fulfilling as you’d like.

As the great philosopher Norm Peterson once said, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world and I’m wearing Milk Bone underwear.” That’s what the outside world is like, kids. Constantly having to make decisions that will have short and long-term implications. Pay for a night out, or pay for a week’s groceries? Hang out with friends at a bar, or hang out with friends at a cramped apartment? Take in a movie, or take in the sights? A lot of adult decisions crammed into a brain that is still developing.

So, no pressure.

And that’s on top of the other stuff that’s going through your minds. Things like politics, climate change, the war in Gaza, the economy, growing tensions here and abroad, I could go on and on, but I won’t because I don’t want the school to void the check before I can cash it. So, let me throw in a bit of hope.

All the big stuff you think you have to deal with? All of it is beyond your control.

Now, you can look at that revelation in one of two ways. You can either be monumentally depressed and close yourselves off from the world, or you can be glad the weight of the world is off your shoulders. As you take the next steps in your lives, you have to decide which perspective you want to have and plan accordingly. One path will lead you into dark, angry places where you have no joy. The other path will open up new avenues to find your joy.

And the best part about it? You have time to figure it out. You’re young and, hopefully, have a long life ahead of you. Not everything is going to make sense yet. It took me two years of working at a dead-end telemarketing job to realize how much the government takes from your paycheck and how little you get in return. Sure, you can get active in politics and vote like an adult, or at the very least a slightly more mature child, but as the great philosopher Tripper from the movie “Meatballs” once said, “It just doesn’t matter!”

Kinda selling the joyless life, aren’t I?

Maybe, but it’s with a twist. One of the hardest lessons I learned in my young adult life was to pick my battles. Figure out what you can control and what you can’t. Unless you’re going to volunteer for the war in Ukraine and move to the front lines, you aren’t going to move the needle on ending it. But, if you focus on putting away a little money here and there and live frugally until you get on your feet, you still won’t have an impact on the war effort, but you might set yourself up for a better future.

That’s what I mean by picking your battles. Knowing when your efforts are going to make a difference in your life. If you need emotional fulfillment, try volunteering. Take up a hobby or two. Spend time reflecting on what you want to do, how you want to do it, and what you believe. Tomorrow’s bumper crop starts with today’s planting. Once the seeds are planted, it’s up to you to figure out how to make them grow.

And failing that you could always get into politics, where some of the biggest dunces on God’s green earth get paid handsome sums of money for being mediocre at best. You don’t even need experience being a dunce, either! They will train you on the job! Granted, you might have to leave your integrity and anything resembling a soul at the door, but if you’re willing to aim for the middle, I’m there for you!

To everyone else, all I can ask is to aim higher than the middle. Sure, you will miss a lot of the time, but that’s how we learn. Nothing in life is supposed to be easy. If it were, everyone would have astronomical starting salaries, a company car, an expense account, and opportunities for advancement just waiting for you. But not everybody can have that. I mean, what would the children of rich parents do in that case?

What I’m trying to say is don’t sell yourselves short. You are going to screw up because you’re human, and young humans at that. As the great philosopher Pete Townsend once said, “Don’t try to run before you’ve figured how to crawl.” Take your time, look around, and enjoy those little moments we all have. Take in a sunset or a sunrise. Smell the flowers. Reflect on the simple beauty that’s all around us if we just open our eyes wide enough. And most of all, stop looking at your phones and start looking up. Not only will you gain a better perspective on the world, but you’ll be less likely to run into me at the grocery store.

So, let me close with a saying that’s held me in good stead all of my years. As my grandpa used to say, “Hey you kids! Stay off my lawn!”

Congratulations, Class of 2024!

Author: Thomas

I'm a writer and a ranger and a young boy bearing arms. And two out of the three don't count.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *