Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ten Things: The Graduation Speech No One Will Ask Me to Make

This is in honor of my youngest child’s last two days in high school. Woo hoo! But no one ever asks me to deliver a graduation speech. I know—go figure. So here is the speech I find myself wanting to make. These are the ten most important things I wish someone had told me, or things I am working on, or things I learned the hard way. What would YOU add?

1. Some people would have you believe that kindness is synonymous with stupidity, empathy is synonymous with weakness, and honesty and respect are synonymous with naiveté. Don’t buy it. There is no accomplishment in selfishness. It takes a wealth of inner resources to be a giver—and a lack of them to be greedy. In the long run, the people we all remember and respect the most in life aren’t the rich or the beautiful. They are the ones who gave something to others—and not because it glorified them. They gave simply out of love.

2. Remember what Jane Austen said over 200 years ago. Marry a spouse with character. That woman knew human nature. She’s still right.

3. Beauty really is overrated. What’s more, beauty is a lot more common than I always used to think—it’s everywhere. And thank heavens for that. If you don’t see it, change your definition. If you’re concerned about how you look, work to be healthy, happy, and good. Then you will be truly beautiful to other truly beautiful people.

4. When you finish learning, you finish living. Always learn.

5. Laugh at yourself. You’re a cheap source of amusement and you’re always politically correct.

6. Be best to those who love you most. Too many people work to attain the approval of strangers while mistreating their loved ones. Avoid those people at all costs. Be loyal to the people who matter. Including yourself (go Polonius).

7. If that little warning light in the back of your mind goes off, don’t be an idiot. Listen.

8. Beware of people who habitually ask for pity…or those who habitually try to dole it out. Both are manipulators. The people who deserve the most respect tend to be the ones who show it to others. Seek them out and befriend them. If they respect you back, they will always be dear to your heart and your life. And really beware of those who operate on double standards. In fact, beware of inequality. Woodrow Wilson said, “You cannot be friends upon any other terms than upon the terms of equality.” Was he ever right.

9. Crappy things that are completely beyond your control will happen to you. Maybe they already have. It sucks. The good news is that being an adult means you can either change your situation, or failing that, change your response to it. Do one of those, or both, making sure your choices are positive ones that make things better for yourself and others in the long run. Then be thankful for the person you’ve become and for the crappy things that led you there. If you do that, you will make each of life’s gouges into a stroke of the sculptor’s knife, and in the end you’ll be left with a work of art called Wisdom.

10. Two of the most valuable possessions you can own are a good walk and a good laugh. Walk like you own the world and people will think you do. Laugh like you love the world, and people will know you do.

So…walk far and laugh a lot.

In honor of the occasion, I have two quotes, each from one of my all-time favorite authors :

If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down. ~Ray Bradbury

If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind. ~Kurt Vonnegut


  1. Both quotes were brilliant, as was your graduation speech. I think you need to send out snippets to Harvard, Princeton, etc. If Sarah Palin's daughter can get buckets of money for lectures, you should get mega-buckets for THAT speech.

    The "great walk and great laugh" really got me thinking...

    What plans does your kiddo have for the summer...for next year?

  2. Such wisdom!
    All ten are fantastic, but I love #4 and #6.
    Walk far and laugh a lot--such wonderful advice.
    Donna V.

  3. All such wonderful pieces of advice, Tam! I found myself hearing the music behind the words...as in Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann! Tell your lovely child Congrats from me!

  4. Amen, don't you wish someone had told us those ten simple things? And yes, laughter and the ability to walk away from or to approach are vital. Great speech, encore! :)

  5. Congratulations to both of you! And your speech is brilliant and beautifully written. I wouldn't add a thing. (I might like to borrow it, though. Promise to give you full credit.) Considering that this speech is, in effect, your personal credo, I'd say you're one amazing mom.

  6. Now I think someone should ask you to give this speech. It's what young people (and not so young people) need to hear and understand.

  7. This is brilliant! I like each and every one of them, but 9 is probably my favorite. And congratulations to your youngest--and to you!

  8. Absolutely wonderful. It really is what they need to hear. I'm going to send this link to my niece. (And I love Jane Austen. How did she get to be so wise?)
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  9. Thanks so much to all of you! Kiddo's trying to juggle her summer lifeguard job along with her rest-of-the-year-job right now, then will go to S.L.U. (Saint Louis U) in August. Wish I knew how Jane Austen did it because she died so young and was still wise. As I said, I'm still working on that list....

  10. Tammy,
    You embody #3, I love this: beauty is everywhere and if you don't see it, change your defintion.

    You are one of the beautiful people on this earth and your light shines.
    Seriously, you should try to publish this. It is timeles, these are priceless words of wisdom.

  11. Lisa Claro sent me over and I'm so glad she did. Wonderful post! It's good to meet you. :) Have a great weekend!

  12. Very wise words, Tammy. Congratulations to you and your youngest. What a wonderful and happy milestone for you both!


  13. Wow. Thank you all so much for your kind words!!! And thank you to Lisa Ricard Claro for the link!!!

  14. It's been ages since I've looked at your blog Tammy.... You've done an amazing job with the kids! They are on their way! So proud of you and them! Just wish I could've been there to help celebrate with you all! xoxo holly


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