Don’t Bet Against Gravity (or) The Graduation Speech

The speech I’d give, if anyone asked…

To The Class of 2021… And All The Ones To Follow

Dear Future Old People:

I am honored to speak to you, at the request of absolutely nobody. The sight of your shiny blue faces, illuminated by your phone screens, fills me with the feeling that I am, at last, starring in a science fiction movie. Hopefully it’s more of a “cute and cuddly aliens” than a dystopian apocalypse, but I won’t know until I try to make it to my car.

Old people droning unsolicited advice is a time-honored tradition of graduation. What makes this different is that it isn’t being given at an official graduation. Life is a continual test. You will always be graduating in some way. So here is the best advice I can offer you. It’s not much, but it’s what I’ve got.

First, don’t try to see how much the toilet can take in and still flush. Either you will have to clean up the results or someone else will. People don’t forget, or forgive, having to clean up big messes they didn’t create. Try not to leave trash and wreckage in your wake, in case you have to walk back that way.

Don’t blow in the dog’s face. Just trust me. It’s a good idea to be aware of how the recipient of your attention is enjoying, or not enjoying, it. Everyone has a snapping point and finding it will not be fun. Also, don’t pull the cat’s tail. If you cause someone pain, he tends to want to share that feeling with you, so you can appreciate what it’s like.

If you’re so bored the answer seems to be pulling on the cat’s tail, learn to knit. You might still be bored, but you’ll end up with a sweater.

Don’t bet against gravity. Learn the rules for anything you really want to do. You may be the rare exception to whom the rules don’t apply, but probably not. That’s how they became rules. Even if you don’t follow them, know them — orĀ  you’ll look like an amateur. Why make life harder than it has to be? Some of the rules even make sense.

Try not to be a jerk. You don’t treat other people kindly because they deserve it. You do it because you deserve to be that person. It isn’t necessary to approve of people to treat them well. You need to be able to approve of you. That way, if someone calls you names, you can shrug it off, because you know you’re a good person.

Finally, know that if you try to be a good, responsible, kind person, that is all the world gets to ask of you. Anything more it gets is gravy. Don’t let other people decide who you will be. They don’t know. You don’t know. It’s a work in progress. If you don’t like you, work on it. Nobody’s got it all perfected yet. The smoothest glass has pits in it if you look at it closely enough, but it’s still beautiful. Demand a lot from yourself, but not perfection. Perfection is a goal, not a destination.

Good luck. And put your phone down occasionally.

Joey Jones,

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