It’s the time of year when robes and funny hats aren’t only worn while making that first pot of coffee. When “Pomp and Circumstance” is less about highfalutin’ and more about the soundtrack to one of the more significant processions you’ll ever watch. When the word “commencement” simultaneously means a beginning and an end, and nobody thinks that’s strange.
It’s graduation season.
I’ll be caught up in it this year, traveling to Philadelphia this weekend to see my sister finish college and Milwaukee in a month when my brother wraps up high school. During the ceremonies, I know that as soon as the C’s sit down and the procession moves from F to Q to R, I’ll be contemplating what everyone else in attendance will have at some point as well:
Man, remember when that was me down there? Shoot, if I knew then what I know now … Wouldn’t it be great to have a conversation with that person?
Fortunately, I was asked to be the commencement speaker at Past Me’s college graduation (somehow my only speaking invitation this year). Here’s a transcript of the speech I gave:
Andy: Hello, everyone. I’d just like to start by saying what an honor it is to be here, and what an honor it is to have somehow been awarded a private graduation. Good to see you Mom, Dad, Past Me …
Past Andy: Hey! Why am I Past Me? Why aren’t you Future Me and me Present Me?
Andy: Trust me, you’re Past Me. You’ll understand when you cut your hair and become Present Me. (And do that, pronto. That David Cassidy look is doing neither one of us any favors.)
I remember being in your position. Proud of your accomplishment. Relieved at the perceived end of homework. But mostly terrified of leaving your friends and stepping out by yourself into the world, one without the structure of the education system in which you’ve been living for the past 17 years.
And you should be — for all of those things. But you also shouldn’t.
Your accomplishment is only that, an accomplishment, one of many you’re going achieve and strive past. Homework never ends; now we just call it work. And your friends? Facebook isn’t going away — in fact they’ll make a movie about it; it’s actually going to be pretty good.
But this whole “world” thing. The one lacking the structure of A’s and B’s and summer vacation. Yeah, it’s a doozy, especially with this recession some have been prone to calling Great. Yeah, you’re going to move into the basement in a month. And people are going to write about your generation’s laziness and privilege.
But you’re going to make it out of the basement. Most of us do, eventually. And in 10 years, Future Me will look back at the both of us and laugh. Because he’ll have mitigated all of this worry with the same work ethic that got you to this point now, with the robe and the funny hat. You have the grind inside of you, it’s just a matter of applying it once you get the chance. Have faith in yourself; by now, you’ve earned it.
I’ve always wanted to close a speech with advice from a large, furry beast. I wanted to quote the great Aloysius Snuffleupagus, but it turns out he never really said anything too profound, preferring instead to discuss the merits of cabbage and spaghetti. So I’ll turn instead to Falcor, that giant flying dog(?) from “The Neverending Story”:
“Never give up, and good luck will find you.” Oh, and he said something about haircuts, too.
Now go, hustle, and have fun. I look forward to you becoming me.
Andy also wants to wish all the moms out there a happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for all you do.