I remember my 2011 college graduation commencement speaker’s speech like it was yesterday, and yesterday I was blackout drunk. I don’t remember who gave it, what they said, or if I even listened. What I do remember about my graduation day is being brutally hungover after a night of Four Lokos, getting drunk with my friends that morning, and then heading to the ceremony together in a minivan. Oh, to be young again…
What I’m trying to say is that commencement speeches are bullshit. I don’t think I got that across in paragraph one, but here it is in paragraph two. Like the intro to this article, commencement speeches are worthless. They vaguely talk about a whole bunch of shit that you might accomplish, ways that the world needs you, ways you can change the world and leave it a better place, blah blah blah.
One thing they never do is tell you what you’re in for on the outside of the college bubble. You just spent your college years drinking, schmoozing, and smoking everything in sight, and now there’s some CEO of Bank of Whatever telling you to pursue your passions. You sit there thinking, “I’ve been pursuing them for four years; what’s this asshole talking about?”
It’s time for a real commencement speech. Nothing in college actually prepares you for the real world, so maybe a true-to-life commencement speech would be a good first step. So here it is, class of 2017: here’s my speech to you. I hope you carry this advice with you for the rest of your life, just like I have ever since that one guy said words at my graduation.
Commencement Speaker: Ryco Newton-Block
“Congratulations, graduates of the class of 2017. After four years of hard work, you are graduating from college. You did it!
Now, unfortunately for you, so did a ton of other people. In fact, there’s a bunch of them doing it right now, just like you. And a few others did it back in 2016, 2015, 2014 and so on and so forth. So, sorry — finding a well-paying job right away is going to be tough. You’ll probably find a solid underpaying job doing something your $20K per year tuition taught you nothing about. It’s a fact that 80% of people work outside of their majors, so shove that communications degree up your ass and enjoy your 8 a.m. sales training.
Finding a job is crucial, as it will allow you to avoid moving back in with your parents. But do keep in mind that if you’re lucky enough to find a job quickly, entry-level job salaries haven’t increased in over a decade. So call your mom and tell her to get your shit out of storage because, just like Puff Daddy, you’re coming home.
Let’s fast forward. It’s now been two years since you graduated. In that time, you received a promotion, moved in with your friend(s), and you have some disposable income. You party every weekend, you travel a little bit, and you use Instagram to make people think you travel a lot. Then one morning you’re driving to work and suddenly it hits you: you don’t really like what you do. But it’s more than that; you already knew that. What really hits you is that you don’t really know who you are. You miss college. You miss the freedom. You miss being happy. You’re not unhappy, but you’re not happy either. Every day, you’re just going through the motions. It’s like when you jerk off out of boredom instead of out of horniness. It’s just very mehhh. No real climax, no real excitement. Sure, you get the paycheck/money shot, but each one leaves you a little bit emptier inside. In the case of masturbating, it actually physically leaves you emptier inside as well, but that’s not really my point here.
You see, as you all sit here today, you believe you know who you are. You’re an athlete, a fraternity guy, a sorority girl, a finance whiz, a member of the science club, an overly aggressive liberal activist who argues about which bathroom transgender people should shit in, whatever. But soon you’ll start working and you’ll be forced to re-identify yourself. These labels you have for yourself now won’t necessarily carry on to the next phase of your life, and, at times, trying to find your true self will be scary. Not Syria scary; America scary — nobody is going to cut your head off because you feel lost in the workplace, so you can chill out at least a bit knowing that.
Now instead of talking to you about some bullshit like revolutionizing the world, I’ll give you three actual tips to revolutionize yourself so you don’t end up dangling from a light fixture in your bedroom.
1. Find hobbies
You can’t be your job. You don’t want to be your job. You don’t want to end up like the VP Larry who makes 450K per year but hates his life and often uses the word “bitch” to describe his wife. To avoid becoming Larry, you have to try new things. It doesn’t matter what it is — paddle boarding, brewing beer, playing tennis, tucking your penis in between your balls and flipping it over so it looks like a hamburger — try anything! Just try things you’ve never done before. You’ll rip through a ton of hobbies, but eventually you’ll land on a couple and these will keep you sane. If you don’t already golf, you’ll probably want to scratch that off the list unless you want to spend the next decade never improving while looking like an uncoordinated mentally handicapped penguin swinging a stick.
2. Don’t say no to things that won’t happen again
Make it an iron-clad goal to say yes to important things that won’t happen twice. Go to that weekend bachelor party in Vegas although you know Monday will suck. It’s expensive? Dude, you’re already $80,000 in debt at 5% interest; who gives a fuck. Go live your life. Keep seeing that psychotic Tinder person until something better comes along. Just enjoy it before it’s too late. Soon you’ll have a wife and kids and you don’t want to look back and think, “I should’ve let Lauren do that weirdly amazing 3-finger thing to me one last time.” You can play it safe when you start family planning, but for now, go fuck and frolic. This is your time.
3. Take Risks
I don’t mean have unprotected sex with a stripper on that Vegas bachelor party, although that does sound pretty amazing. I mean think about what you want in life, and if you’re lucky enough to figure it out, go for it. 90% of people never figure out what it is they want, so I don’t blame them for not taking leaps of faith. But if you’re blessed enough find your calling, you do a disservice to everyone if you don’t pursue it. There will be times you think you’ve found what you’re looking for only to realize you don’t really give a shit about it. You’re not an idiot, and you’re not cursed — you’re just not ready yet.
Life isn’t a pepperoni Hot Pocket; it takes more than 90 seconds to figure this shit out. But once you do find what it is you’re meant to do, you can’t be a giant pussy about it. Plan your way to do it, but know that 80% of it is faith. And not faith in God or religion, but faith in yourself. God won’t put in your two week’s notice for you, tell your boss to eat dirt, and take out a bank loan for you to start your advertising agency. That’s shit that you have to do. And remember: no matter how many times your ideas completely fail, or you go bankrupt, you can still be the president of the United States.
I hope you now have a better understanding of what awaits you beyond your walled, safe space college city. Lastly, remember to always believe in yourself, bet on yourself, and have faith in yourself. If you don’t, nobody else will.
With that, go take way too many forced graduation pictures with your family. They are here, they believe in you, and they proudly wait for you to walk across this stage. If they ask why the commencement speaker was so blunt, tell them he’s the best speaker in the world. A great comic, a legend in his own mind, and that he is probably right about everything because he lived it.