Friends, Romans, graduates — good morning.
Look at you, all beaming with pride. And why shouldn’t you be? You deserve to be happy on this day of all days — the culmination of everything you’ve worked hard for and everything you’ve known for the last four years. You deserve this joy.
Well, most of you deserve it. Not you, Martha.
Most graduation speeches talk about hard work, finding yourself, and chasing your dreams. Most graduation speeches cite examples of modern renaissance men and women, geniuses of the 21st century. That’s all well and good, but that’s not why I’m standing before you today. I’m sure you’re all bored with that by now. Plus, if I can’t measure up to Natalie Portman’s 2015 Harvard speech, I might as well go down a different route. That being said, I’m here not to inspire you but to tell you the truth. Also, I’m sure you all have enough motivational quotes saved from Pinterest to last you the next five years or so.
We’ve all got this grand idea in our heads that graduation is the gateway to adulthood but the truth is that you don’t wake up the day after feeling any more put together. Adulthood is a journey — a slow crawl at first, if anything — and if there’s one thing you must absolutely know about it, it’s this: you won’t be moving at the same pace as everyone else. No one will be growing in unison.
Some people will be hired much earlier than you, some won’t be hired ‘til years later. Some people will move out right after today, some people will live with their parents until they get married. You will get jealous of your friends with their start-ups, budding freelance careers, and absurdly high paychecks. You will laugh at your enemies for lagging behind, messing up, or becoming nothing but an Instagram influencer without an actual day job. (Or, okay, you might envy them a little bit for that last one.) You’ll feel sorry for yourself sometimes (e.g., when you’re eating a piece of bread at 3AM because that’s all that’s left in your pantry) but feel great about where you are at others (e.g., when you’re at spin class which means you have enough money and energy to go). You will enter a cycle that goes from being underwhelmed by your own life to being overwhelmed by it all in a span of minutes — just imagine how many minutes there are in a day! (In case 16 years of math class has taught you nothing, there are 1440 minutes… But please don’t quote me on that.) You will compare yourself constantly and consistently to those around you — in real life and online. In this day and age, it’s much too easy to fall into the trap of turning other people into your metric for success. Don’t. Do. It.
Having said that, another piece of truth to remember post-college is that your online presence isn’t as important as you think. Up to this point, we’ve only known success in terms of concrete numbers. We’ve been conditioned to measure ourselves by our grades thanks to the schooling system, by the number of friends we have thanks to our social systems, and by our vital statistics thanks to mass media. It is only natural that we look for that numerically based validation once report cards become a thing of the past and more often than not, we look for it online. While becoming known or having a ton of “friends” isn’t a bad thing, an addiction to this sort of validation can become very toxic, very fast. Remember to get offline every now and then. You are more than what Twitter makes you. Know who your real friends are, organize your priorities, and don’t dwell too much on what you read off of your multiple LCD screens.
Also, stop pretending to be someone you’re not online. Personality catfishing is not cool. I’m looking at you, Martha.
Speaking of friends, you’re gonna lose some of them. It’s not just a possibility, it’s a fact. Whether it be due to a lack of effort or a change in principles or beliefs, it’s going to happen. People change and people drift apart and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. More often than not, you’ll find that the friend break-ups you go through are completely necessary. You will feel lighter and happier after grieving over your friendship. This is, however, something I would advise you to prepare for emotionally.
You know what else you should prepare for emotionally and mentally? Taxes. Let me cap this off with a practical, universal truth: taxes will be the bane of your young existence. You know how all your titas and titos are always complaining about taxes and how they don’t really see where any of it goes? It sounds whiny now but you’ll understand very, very soon. Make sure to know the difference between net and gross when discussing your salary with your first employer and make sure to download a meditation app for right after you receive your first pay slip — the breakdown just might infuriate you. Also, a word to the wise: save your receipts.
Congratulations, class of 2017! Aim high, dream big, keep it real. Welcome to adulthood.