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Last Post of the Day – Mary Smich’s Guide to Life for Graduates

Enough with the stress and strain.  Enough with the money problems.  Sometimes it seems like most of what money does is create problems, but like I said, I’ve had enough of those.  Enough with problems in general.

It’s time for something a little better – a bit of my philosophy for life :wink:  No, it doesn’t involve firearms, explosives, pyrotechnics, aviation, knives, or cars.  Just advice I’ve liked the sound of since I first heard it on the radio as it was re-formed by Baz Luhrmann many years ago and which has proven to be wise.

Some of y’all out there might remember the “sunscreen” song.  If you don’t remember it, click here.  If that doesn’t do it, you’ve been under a rock for too long :P

While doing a bit of research, I found out via Wikipedia that this song wasn’t written by Baz Luhrmann, nor was it intended for the radio at all.  Its first incarnation was actually as a newspaper column in the Chicago Tribune by Mary Schmich.

No matter the origin, I can’t help but think of just how accurate some of it’s been as I’ve gone through life.  It’s one of those things I reflect on and laugh at when I’m stressed out, bummed out, or just plain worn out by life.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young

Mary Schmich

June 1, 1997

Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out, some world-weary pundit eager to pontificate on life to young people who’d rather be Rollerblading. Most of us, alas, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but there’s no reason we can’t entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for Graduates.

I encourage anyone over 26 to try this and thank you for indulging my attempt.Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Yeah, y’all probably know me pretty well by now :)  Still, every once in a while, I’ll tell you a bit about just what makes me tick :wink:  Here’s hoping this helps you out sometime like it’s done for me on more than a few occasions.

If Mary Smich is out there and reading this, thanks for writing it :D

Have a great day, everyone :mrgreen:


2 comments to Last Post of the Day – Mary Smich’s Guide to Life for Graduates

  • Kath

    No money, more money — still a headache!! :)

    I love that graduation poem, should be one of those little things framed and hanging near your desk — I mean for us all.

    This week has been full of a few ups and downs and this is a weekend I am happy is here!! Plus, the snow is melting, melting, melting! MAJOR HAPPY FACE on that!

    • Yep, it’s all a headache :P I’ll try to remember to post a quote about money from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sometime soon :wink: And yes, I think that Guide should be required reading in schools :D

      Have fun and enjoy watching the snow melt!

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