Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ‘97:
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 blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.”
Hunger, a poet once said, is the most important thing we know the first lesson we learn. But hunger can be easily quieted down, easily satiated. There is another force, a different type of hunger, an unquenchable thirst that cannot be extinguished. It’s very existence is what defines us, what makes us human. That force is love.
Love, you see, is the one force that cannot be explained, cannot be broken down into a chemical process. It is the beacon that guides us back home when no one is there, and the light that illuminates our loss. It’s absence robs us of all pleasure, of our capacity for joy. It makes out nights darker and our days gloomier. But when we find love no matter how wrong, how sad, or how terrible, we cling to it. It gives us our strength. It holds us upright. It feeds on us, and we feed on it.
Love is our grace. Love is our downfall.”