Monday, July 10, 2006

Do Something That Scares You Every Day

Sorry. This is part of an email i sent to someone early this morning. It wasn't meant for everyone but feel free...

I don't like conan o'brien. I remember seeing the very first episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien... (i was staying up until 5am, even as a lil kid). I really liked the show and watched it religiously - pretty much every night for the first five years. After that, though, he never seemed to change - he was (and still is) making the same jokes he was making the first time he stepped in front of the audience, and his arrogant self-deprecation became very tedious, so i was over him a long time ago...
However.... I'm a sucker for graduations. I am. They're my weakness (I think I've told you this before). Steve Jobs' address to Stanford last year was incredibly moving, but maybe only to geeks like me. In some bizarre coincidence, my brother's commencement speaker at George Washington University was my commencement speaker at USC the following year. It was painfully anticlimactic and she was remarkably boring - I've was told she gave the identical speech both years, though i was not conscious for my own so I'm not sure. When i was in high school and the internet was a novel concept to most people, a supposed commencement address from Kurt Vonnegut to the MIT Class of 1997 became headline news for the summer. It was known as the Sunscreen Speech and it created a certain cheeriness in a lot of people. It was a hoax (actually written by Mary Schmich as she imagined what she would say if she was approached to give an address), but a great one that reminds me of a carefree time that I really miss...

Conan addressed Stuyvesant High School this year. The first part is not very interesting - a lot of his bad, tired humor - but the second part I think is very good and so if you want, check it out here.

In addition, Mary Schmich's Kurt Vonnegut's Address (reproduced without permission).

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 pm 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

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.


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