To the class of 2019
This year marks 20 years since I left school.
At our leavers’ assembly a wonderful teacher, Mrs Broom played a song which I first replayed on tape, then CD, then an iPod playlist and now Spotify.
This song has become like the soundtrack to my life, in a way.
I must have listened to it thousands of times…
Each time, a different line resonated with me depending on what was happening in my world at that moment.
But listening to it this year, as 20 years have somehow passed since the message it sends was gifted to us as we headed out into the world, I heard it differently.
I truly heard the words. I understand them all now in ways I couldn’t possibly have done when I was 16.
These words are everything I have learned about life, about the kind of person I want to become, and about what truly matters.
So, I thought I would share them with you (with a few very minor edits) so that you may look back and read them again or listen to this song and have the profound experience I have had this year in truly hearing what it says. That song is Sunscreen, by Baz Luhrmann.
I’ve changed a few things, as I believe that while sunscreen is up there among the most important things, there’s something that trumps it for me – especially in these uncertain and unsettling times. ❤️
To the class of 2019…
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, kindness would be it.
And by kindness, I don’t just mean looking for the odd opportunity to help an old lady across the street – although you should definitely do that…
By kindness, I mean be kind to yourself first, last and every moment in between. (We’re not taught to be good at that, so you have to learn how.)
Be kind to our beautiful planet, to people who are the same as you and to people who are different from you.
Be kind to animals, and to everything in nature.
Be kind in situations you don’t understand or agree with.
Above all things. Always be kind.
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 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.
And however you look, know that it does not define you or dictate your worth…you are beautiful, and you are enough. No caveats.
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 every day that scares you.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts; don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Floss. (Both your teeth and learn the floss dance with a child…)
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.
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 and 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 what other people think of it. IT’S THE GREATEST INSTRUMENT YOU WILL 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.
Accept certain inalienable truths; prices will rise…politicians will philander. You too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasise that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders (well, actually – respect EVERYONE. Elders, youngers – we’re all people and everyone deserves your respect. We are all different, but not one of us is better or worse than anyone else.)
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 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 kindness.