Backstory: Graduated wisdom

I was once like you, Class of 2006, all full of ideas, hope, and pimples.

I was sitting where you are sitting right now in an auditorium with my fellow classmates, wearing the traditional Hefty garbage bag robe and a cap that looked like a yamalka with a pizza box lid.

I, like you, had my own ideas about the future: what I wanted to do, who I wanted to become, what I hoped it would be. But after graduation, both from high school and college, I learned quickly that the future is difficult to tame. You've got a better chance taking Amelia Earhart to the prom than controlling the future.

There are some things you should know about the world you're about to enter. It's like that song by the Faces, "I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger. I wish that I knew what I know now when I was stronger ... so I could move into my parents' basement ... and never have to worry about paying another overpriced cellphone bill ever again."

You should know that the world is a very beautiful place. Wonders abound that will make you believe that some sort of higher power had to exist, be it God, Allah, or Sinatra. The problem is people screw it up. Mother Nature created the beauty and majesty that is the Grand Canyon, but people created the gift shop next to it that sells merchandise that says, "I went to Arizona and I didn't fall into the Grand Canyon."

You should know that people, by and large, are kind-hearted, nurturing, and just looking for love. But what changes them are temptations such as greed, power, and lust. Hal Halbrook's character from the movie "Wall Street" said: "The thing about money, Bud, is it makes you do things you don't want to do." Remember that kid in elementary school who would eat anything for a quarter? He's a stockbroker now.

You should know the difference between work and a job. Work is something you have to do. A job provides a service to people. A job fulfills an important purpose in the universe unless your major was English, Esperanto, or government.

You should know that money doesn't equal success. Just look at the New York Yankees. You should know that you might think you know everything, but you don't. If you did, you wouldn't be so quick to move out of your parents' house.

You should know that everything you learn now will somehow help you in the future, except for geometry. The only people who need to learn geometry are pool players and geometry teachers. You should know that the future can be unnerving. What matters is how you choose to face it.

So, I say, take off your caps, toss them in the air, and watch them as they fly high in the auditorium sky, because they are a metaphor for the rest of your lives. Just be careful of them on the way back down: You might get hit.

Danny Gallagher is a reporter and humorist living in Texas.

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