Hodge: Sage advice stands the test of time

For the past five months I’ve had the true pleasure of getting to know two fine young men who’ve been studying insanely hard to become paramedics.

It was a hell of a course and as Mark and Graham worked hard to get through it, Tez and I were cheering heartily—akin to adoptive parents.

Late last night (while I attempted sleep) my brain typically tap-danced across a floor of thoughts.

Amongst the myriad of mental messages was the brief thought pattern that I’d like to find the boys a card, or a little wall hanging, or even a beer mug, that had something profound written on it about achievement, graduation, moving forward in life…blah, blah, blah.  Something sort of adoptive Dadish.

This morning, this little gem of prose re-appeared in my email box and I figured it was poignant enough to print out and give to Mark and Graham. There is no sense trying to plagiarize it or improve upon it.

Allegedly, this is a commencement address at MIT by Kurt Vonnegut.

Regardless it’s great stuff. Enjoy.

“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, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve 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 are not as fat as you imagine. Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.

“The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind side you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

“Do one thing every day that scares you. Sing.  Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

“Floss.  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 yourself.

“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.

“Stretch.  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.

“Whatever 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 of 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 your 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’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

“Understand that friends come and go, but with a 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 who knew you when you were young.

“Travel. 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’ll 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 look 85.  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.”


I figure that’s pretty good. Now I don’t have to buy Graham or Mark a thought provoking, life inspiring card, wall hanging, or beer mug.

Heck, I don’t even have to print it out. I can just hand them a copy of the Capital News.


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