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Commencement

Tuesday night, I was in Ann Arbor for Community High’s graduation ceremony. While each and every member of the class of 2005 got the chance to say a few words—I was particularly impressed with the girl who quoted Cicero in Latin—I was not invited to speak. As the proprietress of my very own blog, though, I can talk whenever I want, and I would like to take this opportunity to drop a little wisdom on my young friends and former students.

When I was teaching at Community, I tried to fill my classes with delightful information and thought-provoking images, but that was just to get your attention. (Note to teachers: you should be aware that, if you use the phrase “hot girl on girl action” in front of a room full of teens, said teens will not only remember that moment forever, but they will also repeat those words back to you at every opportunity.) I wasn’t really interested in teaching you facts: I was interested in teaching you to question everything—not with cynicism, but with honest wonder and a respect for complexity. I didn’t just want you to learn: I wanted to give you new tools for learning. I wanted to make you think, because I believe in thinking.

With this recent rite de passage behind you, you are about to embark on a unique time in your life—maybe not the best time, but probably the coolest. You are now bona fide adults, but you have not yet acquired any of the major accoutrements of adulthood. Children, a spouse, a career, a mortgage, a debilitating amount of credit-card debt: You should not be in a rush to obtain any of these—especially that last one. You should be enjoying the rights and privileges of your age while avoiding as many unnecessary responsibilities and entanglements as you can.

You are passing from adolescence into the golden realm of post-adolescence. If the former is a period of physical revolution, the latter is the time for intellectual, emotional, and spiritual transformation. You should give yourself some freedom, some room to move around. Feed your brain and your heart and give them space to grow. Experiment with experience, but try to avoid alcohol poisoning and the really hard drugs. Don’t just practice safe sex: Be kind and smart, too. If you’re on your way to college, take all the classes that interest you, even if they aren’t in your major and don’t fulfill any of your requirements. Be aware that your freshman roommate will probably be a nightmare beyond your worst imagining, but the experience will make for good stories later in life. Those of you who aren’t going away to school should move out of your parents’ house as soon as you can realistically manage: This is much more important than saving up for a new car or some other expensive bullshit. And, again, please do not ruin your peace of mind and your credit rating buying crap you can’t really afford—it’s so not worth it.

I seem to be wandering into the realm of practical advice, which, if memory serves, is the kind of thing people your age are quite tired of hearing. It’s only because I care. But I shall stop now, and leave you with this: Have as much fun as you possibly can, because it’s never going to be easier to do than it is right now.

June 10, 2005 | Permalink

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