Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, June 19, 2017
Welcome, 2017 graduates.
It is great to be back on the old Blotzberger University campus where I have such fond memories — at least until my junior year when I was asked to leave for a variety of misdemeanors and a particularly nasty and physical disagreement with my English professor. Imagine arguing over whether Ernest Hemingway was a closet homosexual.
I particularly want to thank the Board of Trustees for choosing me to give the commencement address to this illustrious class, as well as conferring upon me an honorary degree which will make my mother very happy. She would be thrilled if you could make it an M.D. but I’ll take what you got.
So now to the words of wisdom you have waited for. Everyone tells you to follow your dreams. Do not do that. Let’s be really clear. Sleep apnea is rampant, and the dreams you think you are having are not real. They are fake dreams. So you may get confused — like when you see yourself getting on the helicopter to the Hamptons — when it fact it is the #29 bus to Barrio Logan and the annual burrito bash at Las Cuatro Milpas.
As you leave good old Blotz to enter the front door of the world, my advice is to never leave without a key. Or you won’t be able to get back in — which is important if, for example, you forget your phone.
They tell you that you can change the world. No, that is not true. It is always going to be the world, and it is never going to be a pizza — even though they are both round. But don’t forget to change your email as soon as this is over, so that way the alumni development office can’t find you.
Remember that luck is a life force. Do not discount being in the right place at the right time. Life is not fair, so if you happen to get pocket aces, go ahead and go all in. And if you happen to be a trust fund baby, do not dismay; you still have a place. This world needs some people they can mock and chastise for their disgusting, entitled, selfish behavior, while they secretly want to be a deck-hand on your old man’s yacht.
They say that you should take risks when you are young. Fair enough, but, that does not mean jumping off El Cap in a wingsuit. Believing in yourself is not the same as changing the laws of gravity. They tell you to not be afraid. What that means is always carry a flashlight if you are on the mean streets of downtown after dark. And take extra batteries.
Tattoos. This is complicated. The words need to be from some ancient dead language about peace and love, but the placement matters most. Also, unless you are an NBA star or a lifer in prison, I think completely covering both arms, legs and neck is probably a mistake.
They tell you to never give up. Come on. Sometimes quitting is a virtue. If you are not making progress, then there is no good reason to keep swimming upstream. Go with the flow, just remember to get out of the river before you go over the waterfall.
They say that failing is good for you. No, that is a lie. What they mean is failing — after you have succeeded a few times — is forgiven and lets you sound seasoned and erudite. Two or three belly flops early, and you will be offering cheese snacks on the aisle at Costco.
Love what you do, do what you love. The joy is in the journey (particularly if you happen to be in a Lamborghini). Keep your eyes on the prize. Live artfully. Choose meaning. That’s great, as long as it pays six figures and lets me bring my dog to work.
Get outside yourself. Have a sense of mission and purpose. Find common ground. The stories of your life are told to your children, grandchildren (and in my case to my therapist).
As I conclude, let me remind you that the world does not give make-up exams so be careful what you wish for, you may get it.
Rule No. 526: Wear sunscreen.