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Monday, July 23, 2012

Always Wear Sunscreen, and Other Wonderful Advice

I always wear sunscreen. Every day. Rain. Shine. You name it. 

Some people kid me for it, but I don't care. I attribute my lack of sun to not only my pasty white skin, but my lack of freckles as well, and some rather essential health benefits. 

So, I shall NOT be moved from my daily routine. (Especially around the eyes. It's very important around the eyes.)

I'm stubborn that way.

As my former classmates from high school in Texas are preparing to gather in a weeks time to celebrate the past, and from whence we came, my mind goes back to a commencement address I read some time ago.

I filed it away in my brain for future reference, apparently, and it came up on que.

And not only because it agrees with me about sunscreen...    

It serves an astute reminder of how little we know when we are young. How the past takes on a certain patina in our minds. How wise we are only when looking back, and are able to contemplate the full map of our existence from the advantage of hindsight... perhaps sometimes tinged with a little remorse, or a little regret. (Although I think it's much better to have the former than the later.) But certainly with a heavy dose of nostalgia.

I personally always feel that every person, every place, every opportunity, has all added up to who I am. And I like that. I pay tribute to it. Parts of a whole. The "Frankenstein" (but in a good way) of "I AM..."  And while I still crash around and break things from time to time, I like to think that I am getting better at using my brain...

I have always been willing to use my heart.

So, I temper my nostalgia with a bit of truth...but I do love the remembering.

Like the quilts my Grandmother would make, each piece of material representing to her some time in her life, some person, some place...the blue gingham, not a simple pattern, but her mother standing in the kitchen at the sink, with light filtering through the Poppies on the windowsill...

The years pass no matter if one wants them to or not, and that's what this essay addresses. It's how one chooses to use them I suppose.

The following commencement address was spread across the internet as having been written by Kurt Vonnegut. It apparently was not. (You can read the full story here: http://www.wesselenyi.com/Vonnegutstory.htm)

The original pen by some accounts belonged to one Mary Schmich of the Chicago Herald Tribune, who wrote it for her column on what she'd say IF ever asked to give an address. 

She attributes her insight to being high on coffee.

(Something else to which I can relate.)

Honestly: I don't really care if Vonnegut didn't write it. Although that certainly made many people read and contemplate the simple words. 

I think it's dead on. And good advice to consider on any rainy afternoon. 

Just as valid for starting today--no matter what day you are experiencing, what stage you are in on your own personal map, or your age. Life is a lovely and strange thing afterall, full of turning pages, and opportunities, and odd yet sometimes wonderful developments. I like to think we do get a little more intelligent about what matters as we move along...

As for me,  I agree most heartily with the dancing... and the singing...

And, if you are doing it outside... remember... sunscreen!



"Ladies and gentlemen:
Wear sunscreen.
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 pm 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.
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 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. 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 of 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 your 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're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a 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 who knew you when you were young.
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll 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 sunscreen."
Author: Mary Schmich (USA)
First published: July 1, 1997
Copyright: Herald Tribune



  1. Yes, the "Sunscreen" column is correctly credited to columnist Mary Schmich. She was also the writer on the "Brenda Starr, Reporter" comic strip for the 15 years that June & I did the art.

  2. Thanks Roy! I didn't know that! Thanks for the confirmation.

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