One of casualties of the current pandemic has been the ritual of graduations. As you likely know, traditional high school and college graduations were canned this year to avoid large group gatherings. There were some noble and creative efforts to recognize graduates by placing their portraits along the freeway or in the city center. In some communities, there was home delivery of diplomas. This is a sad situation since graduations are the punctuation in life. They scream, “Got that step nailed.”
The only good news is that no one had to listen to graduation speeches, which typically range from boring to soaring fake optimism that you can be whatever you want to be.
But the loss of these speeches has surprisingly left a gap.
Poppy, my eldest and wisest Border Collie, who remembers the euphoria of her graduation from puppy school, decided to step in with a speech of her own for graduates. It is the speech that should get delivered but never is. Let’s get started.
Hello graduates of 2020. Congratulations on finishing up your academic whatever. You have every reason to be proud.
As you enter the next phase of your life, I have five rules for you to live by.
Let’s start with the big one. It may come as a surprise to many of you. Hold onto your chairs. You cannot be anything you want to be. You are not going to be a professional tennis player or a popular rock musician. But you can find what you are good at and work hard to make it sparkle. As Florida-based novelist Carl Hiaasen* wrote, “Strive to excel at something that won’t get you indicted.” A few of you will not be able to understand this, and you will try to cut corners. I hope if you do get sent away that it is a prison that has a puppy-raising program.
Next, some say you should live each day as if it is your last. This is not a good idea. You would make bad decisions like giving your car away and quitting your job. And worst, you would re-home your dog, which would be a terrible mistake. Take the long view. Try to enjoy something each day or help someone less fortunate. And definitely keep your dog.
While optimism is okay, it is important to know that are hordes of jerks out in the world. Learn to move aside or outsmart them. Prefer honest, intelligent people with a sense of humor. There are plenty of them too.
There is more than one pandemic. Denial of facts and science is rampant. Do not send dues to the Flat Earth Society. There are people who are experts in subjects because they invested the time to become experts. Our opinions are not as important as their opinions. It is okay to look up to people who actually know stuff. It is okay to accept what experts say. You may become an expert on some stuff and people may look to you, but you cannot know everything.
Now the big item. You should get a dog–even a cat if you must–as soon as you are settled and can care for one. That way, you will have someone steady and devoted to love while you sort out other stuff.
I wish you all the best. You have a great adventure ahead. I would love to hear from you if you have other rules that bear consideration. But for now, dear graduates, over and out.
*Carl Hiaasen has a wonderful little book called Assume the Worst. Poppy clearly read it before she wrote her speech. She wants to acknowledge that she used some of his ideas to write her speech. Carl has many very funny books that Poppy recommends for driving trips.