If you went to high school in the 90’s, you might remember Baz Luhrmann’s hit single and commencement speech advice track, Sunscreen. I went home to my parents’ house last weekend and being back in my hometown coupled with it also being the weekend of prom, that song crept its way from the back of my memory into the present.
The song is 18 years old – well – 19 if you go by its original publication in the Chicago Tribune by columnist Mary Schmich, but the advice is still good.
Just after high school, I loved the part, “Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.”
Today, I enjoy the section on advice itself. That, “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.”
Here’s the full transcript.
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99, 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 nevermind; you will not
understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have 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’re not as fat as you
Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing
bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm
on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing everyday 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
Remember the 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…what ever 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 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 in your own 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 are the best link to your past and the
people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but for the 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 you
knew 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.
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 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
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…
Wouldn’t it be great if at your high school reunion they had some kind of follow-up commencement speech? To deliver an inspiring message of, Congratulations! You survived the first 20 years after high school! Here’s some advice for the next 20… This should totally be a thing. Maybe it is and I just don’t know it. Maybe this is why TED talks were created. Or blogs…