originally published February 13, 2012
(this entire speech was cribbed from this Wikipedia page)
Hello, graduates. The powers that be would bet dollars to donuts that your experience at the University of Life will supersede your time spent within these hallowed halls.
Allow me to impart my two cents on the twiddly bits of life. The past is a wigwam for a goose’s bridle. Your future is the real McCoy. Get out of the nosebleed section and kill the fatted calf.
Out of the blue, every eager beaver will seek the lion’s share of the world. But life is a Curate’s egg; it’s okay to start out on the shop’s floor. It’s not all sweetness and light, but if you eat humble pie and keep up with the Joneses, the catbird seat may someday be the feather in your cap.
You will never be a jack of all trades, probably never a master of one. You’ll spend much of your life between the devil and the deep blue sea, working Sisyphean tasks for small potatoes. Unless you were born in the purple, or with a silver spoon, you’ll often get the cold shoulder from life. You’ll learn this the hard way.
But hold your horses: the life of the stacked deck and the life of those who toe the line is like chalk and cheese. On the one hand you could make a mountain out of a molehill by tilting at windmills, while crying crocodile tears and acting like the dog in the manger. But where would that get you? Negativity is too cheap to meter, it’s the law of the instrument.
If you mind your P’s and Q’s, don’t jump the gun and – every so often – trip the light fantastic, you won’t go stir crazy. You can be the town mouse or the country mouse, footing the bill on others’ forbidden fruit, or catching forty winks as the exception that proves the rule.
Happiness, real happiness, is the elephant test of life. I don’t want to flog a dead horse here, but your sense of judgment is the perpetual trial of the century, and misuse of it is the crime of the century. You have a war chest of common sense that can make you the dark horse in life’s race, or land you in a Mexican standoff that would make those who came before you turn in their grave.
Graduates, this may be against the grain for you, but you can’t judge a book by its cover, cross a bridge before you come to it, or count your chickens before they hatch. But with the Dunkirk spirit, you can turn adversity into smoke and mirrors. It’s true. Your guilt is a white elephant that throws the baby out with the bathwater. Who needs that? Let go of the axe you’re grinding and agree to disagree.
Here’s a hot tip – and I swear I would never give you a bum steer: even a square peg in a round hole is just spitting distance away from the straw that broke the camel’s back. This isn’t a tempest in a teapot here, it’s the truth, damn it with faint praise if you will.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it is the cutty-sark of invention. It was the bread and butter of your salad days, and not to gild the lily here, but life is easy as pie if you remain curious. Sure, there’s a fudge factor, but don’t let it be the bone of contention, that would be selling coal to Newcastle.
Don’t reinvent the wheel by belling the cat. As the crow flies, it’s a simple matter of software to succeed. Remember, the school of hard knocks plays second fiddle to a good turn. Go native with a grain of salt, and don’t be shy about investing some blood, toil, tears and sweat. Have your cake and eat it too if you can, and find the silver lining when the boy cries wolf. Give your hesitation the bum’s rush.
Ham it up every once in a while. Be all thumbs. Take the piss on the morgue file, and let the rest of them eat crow. Eat your own dog food, be proud to call a spade a spade, even if you’re being a little tongue-in-cheek. Let others cut their noses off to spite their faces, you just remember that the devil is in the details. Also, God is in the details. The details are complex, but they have the power to darken your daylights and leave you all wet, against all odds.
Going forward is a Hobson’s choice. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, push that chip off your shoulder, and cheat death every once in a while. Sure, you’ll jump from the frying pan into the fire sometimes, and life may be all sixes and sevens from time to time, but sometimes you just have to shut up, get the wind knocked out of you, and carry on.
Fall in love; it takes two to tango, after all. Stay away from the red-light district and don’t send to Coventry every time someone’s second childhood kicks you in the intimate parts. The glass is neither half empty nor half full, but it’s better than sliced bread. With the snap of a finger, faster than you can say Jack Robinson, even the black sheep with skeletons in his closet can find the primrose path.
Always be a rabble rouser. You can be a rainbow over Texas, shake off your mufti and go from rags to riches, and end up ahead of the game. Sure, there may be many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, but don’t let that stop you from logrolling with the two-way street that is your future, a hundred and ten percent.
In conclusion, life is never an eye for an eye. It’s more a wolf in sheep’s clothing, full of surprises to be announced. You’ll dismiss those back-seat drivers and learn to live and let live. Sure, sometimes you’ll get a pig in a poke and your pearls may come before swine some days, and yes, you’ll do a Cunningham while the world around you is doing a Leeds, but the education you received here will be your silver bullet. Bob’s your uncle.
So rest in peace, graduates. Get a life, and hail fellow well met!