Thursday, March 09, 2006

Guide to Life for Graduates

Dorothy King has reprinted an article by Mary Schmich first published in 1997 in the Chicago Herald Tribune. She calls it a 'Guide to Life for Graduates'. Some excerpts.

Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

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.
It is very sensible and I would sign up to most of it, but, as she says, it's all wasted on the very people it is intended for. Most young people would find it so timid, so unambitious and uninspiring. Where are the great themes and questions of life? Where is the political/spiritual message? Is there no place here for achievement?

I don't think those things are necessarily excluded; maybe it's just that they shouldn't be everything - you can't rely on them. Notice how much of the advice is about making the most of what you were born into rather than what you set out to make - your parents, siblings and friends of your youth. Notice how she implicitly denies a divine plan for you ('Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's'); it's much more a matter of your attitude to what you are and have. It is personal rather than public knowledge; the sort of thing no-one can really tell you. You have to do it yourself, like love. So that when you pass on the fruit of your experience, you're really only talking to yourself. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
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.
It reminds me of that testament to Stoicism, If by Rudyard Kipling.

No comments: