It’s highly unlikely anyone will ever ask me to address a graduating class, so I shall deliver a commencement speech here. Perhaps people in the real world who actually speak to graduating seniors will find these words and be inspired.
Dear Class of 2014,
Just look at you out there: big smiles, impeccable hairstyles and makeup, brightly colored ribbons and metals and trophies hanging around your necks, pockets jammed with checks and cash collected when your parents hijacked friends and relatives via $500 worth of graduation announcements.
Your Hallmark graduation cards scream phrases like BRIGHT FUTURE and SUCCESSFUL ACHIEVEMENTS and LIFE JOURNEY, and you’re on top of the world. A few of you, the rebels, have even braved the dress code policy by applying masking tape phrases or Greek letters to your mortarboards.
It’s easy to believe the hype about making your dreams come true, finding happiness and blazing career trails, but let me suggest just a few quick reminders as you head out into a world where maybe one day you might have to pay for your own cell phone data plans.
No one gives a shit. This statement isn’t meant to be negative, grads, so chin up. It’s just true. People on Facebook and the stupid comments they post, your co-workers should you be lucky enough to find a job, your classmates? These people are egomaniacal pricks who care only about themselves and therefore do not give a shit about you. The sooner you realize this, the better. And if you find a person who convinces you they give a shit, keep them around. They’ll come in handy for the fact that:
Life sucks. It’s not fun. Any fun you might’ve had is probably over unless you’re already a very rich person and you spend money buying fun experiences because you can. Life is full of hard work, asshole neighbors, stacks of bills and stress over jobs and kids and relationships. Hallmark is in the business of sugar-coating life; don’t drink the Kool-Aid of false optimism that flows on inspirational Pinterest quote boards.
You are not a precious snowflake. Unfortunately for you innocent graduates, most people in your life to this point have led you to believe that the scary scenes in movies can be fast-forwarded, channels can be quickly changed when news reports speak of death, and no one keeps score in sports games because feelings might get hurt. You’ve been given certificates of achievement, trophies and medals just for showing up. Real life doesn’t work that way. You’re just a plain person in a plain world and there are few things that make you different from anyone else. Life will be far less miserable for you the sooner you understand that the universe does not revolve around you and your needs.
Focus on expectation management. You’ve been told that you can do anything you want. Your social media feeds may lead you to believe that mountains are out there to be climbed, corporations led, convertibles driven with the top down, organic gardens hand-grown, families taken on Caribbean vacations. Many of these things won’t happen for many of you right away, or ever. If you lower your expectations about your life and career and embrace a manageable level of mediocrity, you will be less disappointed.
Happiness is not a feeling. Too many people waste their lives pursuing the “feeling” of being happy. They’re then frustrated not to ever “feel” happy. This resentment can be avoided by understanding that happiness is not a feeling. Happiness is a moment and a memory. The trick is in learning that the way you feel when you are remembering something good that happened is the closest thing we get to happiness. Learning to appreciate special moments might help you get through the times when life sucks since you’re not a special snowflake.
Good luck out there! Don’t text and drive, dipshits.
Follow Mary McCarthy on Twitter @marymac.