The Conspiracy

On Commencement [Can’t Believe it’s May]

I like to reflect on endings a lot. More accurately, I hate when, in books and movies, the scene ends with a character driving away and immediately having this crystalizing moment of reflection in which everything that had been so murky becomes clear. That’s not how life works. So when it comes to addressing graduates, those undergoing an abrupt ending of one phase of life to be immediately followed by the expectation to transition into another, I have very strong opinions on what should or should not be said.

So that’s why I liked Charles Wheelan’s faux graduate address in the Wall Street Journal this week. He didn’t try to make it cheesy, he didn’t try to make it a challenge, and he didn’t tell people how excited they should be for the next phase of your life.  Post-graduate life (and as a college freshman, I have as little expertise on the subject as possible) seems big and scary. You’re being taken out of your bubble and thrust into the real world. You have to cook for yourself. And you have to, to paraphrase Wheelan, try not to mess up too badly.

I think that’s the best advice you can give someone, personally. After four long years and hopefully a major that’s applicable to some facet of the world, your job is to take what you know and try to do right by it. Just as coming to college is a transition between who your upbringing made you and who you are on your own, leaving it is a transition between what the last four years have imbued in you and the real world. So if the person you’ve become is someone who will not function well in the real world, run away. Go abroad. Go to graduate school. Do something that will defer responsibility for as long as possible. But hopefully the past four years, (or the upcoming one or two or three) have made you into an active citizen – someone who will consciously and conscientiously try to make sense of the turmoil known as modern life. It’s a crazy world out there; just try to keep your head above the fray.

In the words of Steve Jobs: “stay hungry, stay foolish”.


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