Monday, May 7, 2018

'Don't give advice' and other useless, unheeded commencement suggestions

     Welcome friends, family members, residents of Chicago and environs.
     This is the commencement season.
     They have already begun, these solemn ceremonies, grand processions and groaning brass overtures, at institutions great and small, and will continue for a month and a half, from Loyola University Chicago, all this week, until ... Northwestern University, bringing up the rear, Friday, June 22.
     I'll be at NU, seeing the younger boy off into the world. But first, I'll be at Pomona College in California. Two boys, two commencements, boom-boom, one after another. Because the younger lad flashed through college in three years, itself a lesson on the value of paternal advice, since, when he raised the idea, I urged him to linger and enjoy college. You'll have a lifetime to work.
     He shrugged and did what he wanted. That's what kids do.
     Leading to my first piece of advice for commencement goers: don't give advice. Really, don't. The grads don't want to hear it, probably won't hear it, and you're giving it anyway, not based on their lives, but yours. We pretend we're trying to spare them our mistakes, but what we're really doing is trying to pick the music for a party we're not invited to.
     No matter. Advice will be given. Speakers famous and obscure will don black robes and puffy velvet hats, and share wisdom. Dream dreams. Live life.
     But what about the audience? Who speaks of our hopes?

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  1. I also have two sons and I cried at the two commencements. On entering college I gave them the advice to beware of people who show absolute confidence. You and everyone else will be attracted to them. They are dangerous fools. Time has shown I got that one right.

    But a word of caution. I was always told how difficult raising small children is. My experience was that it was perpetually joyful and fun. The teenage years had some bumps, when I briefly became the most exasperating person in the world - it quickly passed.

    The biggest challenge so far has been the years immediately after college during the transition from kid in school to the working world. The uncertainty of that period is tough, especially given how the employment market has transformed into a universe of haves and have nots. Something tells me your kids will handle it better than most.


  2. Sweet stuff, Neil, and congrats. Preen just a little. You've earned it.

  3. You're gonna be a mess at the weddings, buddy! But you're entitled!

  4. Like the article when Ross was born (clipped and in a memory book) this hits it exactly right. Tears all around. Already warned my HS grad - I may cry at graduation, I will absolutely cry when we drop him at school.


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