It’s never made any sense that universities invite prominent people to deliver commencement addresses to graduates. Graduates don’t need advice. They’ve just spent four years acquiring wisdom, knowledge and a prestigious degree. A career at Starbucks is practically theirs for the taking.
The people who need guidance are the nervous high school students preparing to make the leap to a post-secondary institution. I therefore offer this “premencement” address to the class of 2015?.?.?.
Future graduates and assorted dropouts, cast-offs, washouts and Internet millionaires: you may think I can’t relate to you because I’m over 40. Poppycock and horsefeathers! I daresay you rapscallions and I share the commonality of affixing our knickerbockers one limb tube at a time.
Besides, so much about university life is eternal. The commitment to self-improvement. The reverence for the classics of literature. The godawful cafeteria food. For generations now, students have been asking, “Who was this Salisbury fellow and why are the steaks of him so tough and tasteless?”
Permit me to give you some dos and don’ts from my own personal experience. Pay keen attention—it’s not every day you get guidance from a person who spent six whole years at the University of Western Ontario?.?.?. for which he ultimately received a four-year degree.
DO avoid early classes, especially the ones that begin at 8 o’clock in the morning—or any of the other o’clocks in the morning. I’m not saying I rarely made it to my 8 a.m. political science lecture, but to this day I believe political science involves the dissection of elected officials.
DON’T start a popular website in a fit of misogynistic rage or it will become the centrepiece of a major motion picture that makes the entire world think you’re a colossal douche. (Technically, I learned this not in school but by seeing The Social Network—still, it seems like a pretty important “don’t.”)
If possible, DO live in residence for your first year. Residence life will provide at least half your overall university enjoyment, 75 per cent of your hangovers and 100 per cent of your bedbug scars. Plus, it makes stalking incredibly convenient.
DON’T bring huge piles of sand into your dorm room for a beach party. It sounds like a good idea—but the sand is hard to get rid of, especially when you don’t try to get rid of it and you just leave it there.
DO push the academic boundaries. I developed the ability to take a friend’s eight-page essay and, without adding any words, turn it into it a 12-page essay—with no obvious signs of padding like huge fonts, wide margins or entire Led Zeppelin songs passed off as relevant quotations. I was kind of like the Harvey Keitel character in Pulp Fiction, except instead of murders I helped “clean up” academic lethargy. And that one murder.
DON’T agree to live with just anyone. Your roommates will see you at your worst, assuming they can crane their necks around the six-foot stack of dishes and glasses and—wait, did something just move in there?
In one important way, times have changed since I was in school. In the ’80s and early ’90s, we could get stinking drunk and blindingly stupid in the privacy of our own throw-up. Not anymore. Had I been born 20 years later, I’d be the unwilling star of a Facebook group entitled Drunken Spandau Ballet Impersonation Fail.
So by all means DO wear a balaclava. Wear it when you go out drinking. Wear it when you stay home drinking. Wear it when you engage in other youthful nonsense like cutting class or voting NDP. The most important thing you can get out of your university experience is an education. The next most important thing? Plausible deniability.
Class of 2015: university is an undertaking you will remember for the rest of your life, especially on weekends when you’re doing community service for that indecent exposure conviction.
Never forget that you have worked for this. You have studied for this. Many of you have cheated off the Internet for this.
One final don’t: DON’T hurry. You are entering a bubble of personal freedom, attractive people and Red Bull. Enjoy it. And don’t worry—we’ll be sure to save all of the world’s problems for you to solve.