Everybody’s Focused

This piece is intended to be spoken to the tune of Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen).”

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of 2009, read your textbooks. If I could offer you only one tip for your university life, textbooks would be it. The long term benefits of actually reading your textbooks have been proven by professors, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own wandering experiences. . . I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the stamina and flexibility of your youth; oh, never mind; you will not understand the stamina and flexibility of your youth until it has faded.
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos, and envision in a way you can’t now how much possibility lay before you, and how incredible you really were . . . you are not as unattractive as you imagine.

When studying, don’t worry about your exams, because for you, worrying is about as effective as trying avoid rent by hiding under the bed. The real problems you will face are apt to be the things that never crossed your troubled mind, like the formulas explained in the middle of your third lecture. You know, while you were daydreaming.

Do one thing everyday that excites you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s study time, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on the hard problems; sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t . . . the test is long, and in the end, it’s graded on a bell curve.

Remember assignments you are given, and develop the ability to complete them at least a week before they are due; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old lecture notes, throw away your old vegetables.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your laundry soap . . . the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 18 how to properly iron clothes; some of the most interestingly dressed 25 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of sleep.

Be kind to your liver, you’ll miss that when it’s gone.

Maybe you’ll party, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll join a club, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll graduate at 21, maybe you’ll be doing the lawnmower at your 15th orientation ceremony . . . whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either — your choices are one in five, and so are everyone else’s. Enjoy your mind, 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 on your own DDR pad.

Read the directions, but then don’t follow them.

Do not smash stuff, it will only make you look stupid.

Get to know your parents, you’ll never know what the future might bring.

Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to be a character witness for you in the future.

Understand that lovers come and go, but for the precious ones you should hold on to. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you’ll need the people you know you can count on.

Major in literature once, but switch before it makes you naive. Major in history once, but stop before it makes you cynical.


Accept certain inalienable truths; tuition will rise, jocks will party, you too will nap, and when you do, you’ll fantasize that tuition was reasonable, jocks were noble, and no one partied past 10 on a Wednesday.

Don’t party past 10 on a Wednesday.

Don’t expect anyone else to help you. Maybe you have a scholarship, maybe you have wealthy parents; but you never know when either one might stop supporting you.

Mess with your hair a lot, because when you’re 20, you don’t want to look 45.

Be careful whose advice you take, but be generous when you happen to supply it. Advice is a form of bonding, carrying an heirloom off your mantle, dusting it off, and passing it on to the next generation.

But trust me on the textbooks.