The commencement speech you deserve

Photo by Theresa Klingenschmid on Unsplash

Congratulations on the end of your college education. Hopefully, you didn’t rack up too much debt to earn this degree. If you did, I’m sorry. You’ll be paying that off for a long time.

You probably already have a job, at least a part-time one. That’s how you managed to pay your rent. I’m sorry to drop this bomb on you, but you’re going to work that job for at least a few more months.

Maybe your boss promised you a raise or a promotion to full-time once we handed you this little diploma. That’s good. I sincerely hope your employers keep their word on that one.

Let’s be honest. You didn’t really learn anything here that you couldn’t have taught yourself. You basically paid us forty grand to make you do work and hold you accountable.

If you actually needed me, your professor, to show you how to format a Word Document then I’m sorry, you’re still way behind the magic eight ball.

My real job was to make you figure out for yourself how to format Word documents. But I needed positive comments from you on my course evaluations, so I spoon fed you a bunch of shit. My bad.

There’s still hope. Just know this. Nobody’s going to spoon feed you shit anymore. If you have a job, you already know this to some extent.

Here’s a quick story about how the world works: In college, I worked a lot of jobs. At one place, the manager wouldn’t pay us for our shift if we forgot to clock in. Some people worked eight hours and then never got paid, because they made one simple human mistake.

Maybe you’ll luck out and wind up with a kind, understanding boss. But you probably won’t. Not for your entire career anyway. At some point, you’re going to work for a real shithead who wants to squeeze as much work out of you as he can, pay you as little as possible, and take all the credit for your ideas. You’ll have to make real, hard decisions then.

Some of you have told me you don’t like group work. You complain when someone in your group doesn’t do their fair share, but they coast off your efforts and get the same grade.

Welcome to life, motherfucker. You often have to do other people’s work to keep shit flowing. The payoff is that you’ve helped save your employer — and therefore yourself. Because if you let someone else fuck up, and they destroy your company, or your department, or your university, then you’re out of a job, too. You got a B+ on your group project, despite having a fuck-up on the team. Learn to pat yourself on the back, quietly, in your cubicle.

There’s no shame in moving back in with your parents, for a little while. Just don’t turn into a shiftless dreamer. And maybe at least try to buy your own groceries. Honestly apply for a few jobs every day.

Don’t over-estimate yourself. But don’t under-estimate yourself, either. You’re doing well if you find a full-time job making forty grand a year. You can go up from there. The first step is just to get used to paying your own bills and saving up some cash.

People will tell you to dive into your startup. Dream big. Take chances. Maybe. Who am I to know what life’s got in store for you.

I’m just saying there’s nothing wrong with wanting to take some time to figure yourself out.

Maybe you’ll want to travel the world and start a vlog. That’s great. Go for it. You might get rich. Or you might just break even and come away with some cool stories.

Do what you want. Take chances, but don’t do that based on the one tenth of a percent chance you’ll become famous or rich.

Try to plan ahead, but don’t try to predict or control outcomes. Things hardly ever turn out the way you want them to.

That’s not always a bad thing.

Remember, you’re barely 22. You have another ten years to figure out your dreams, fall in love, and have a kid. Take it slow.

You’re not done learning by any stretch. Now it’s time to start teaching yourself. Nobody really showed me how to write research articles, or how to blog. I picked it up. By doing it. Making mistakes. Learning. Doing things over and over again, with small adjustments.

If you haven’t, you’d better start voting. Every time you don’t, you might as well bend over for some rich dickhead. The only thing they haven’t done yet is bust into your house and steal your flat screen TV. Honestly, they don’t have to, though. Because you’re giving them a third of your money anyway.

Think about the kind of future you want. Not just for yourself. For everyone. The days of self-advancement are over. Community service isn’t optional anymore.

We’ve gotten spoiled. By us, I mean humans. We think we’re entitled to things like clean air and water. Americans especially think we’re entitled to electricity 24/7. Air conditioning. Hot showers. Food pretty much everywhere, readily available.

All of that’s nice. But clean air and water and food takes a communal effort. You have to actually pay your taxes and hold your elected officials accountable. You have to actually read some news, and do work that doesn’t benefit just you in the short term.

You’re unlike any graduating class before. From this point on, things like clean water and air and a livable climate aren’t a given. They might actually go away in your life time, if you don’t pay attention. Finally, I’m sorry you had to spend four years and forty grand for a piece of paper, so that people take you seriously. With any luck, we’ve helped you become a self-sufficient person with some sense of civic duty.

You should at least know how to look stuff up in a search engine. You can solve problems, and know the difference between real and fake news. You’ll think before you make decisions, and you won’t be one of those people who throws trash on the roadside. Thank you very much. Enjoy lunch with your parents, and try not to hit anyone with your cap.

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Unfluencer. | Also on Substack: https://jessicawildfire.substack.com/ jessica.wildfire.writer@gmail.com

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Jessica Wildfire

Jessica Wildfire

Unfluencer. | Also on Substack: https://jessicawildfire.substack.com/ jessica.wildfire.writer@gmail.com

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