A Parent’s Commencement Address to His College Graduates

[Author’s Note: Both of my daughters graduated from college this year. This is my commencement address to them on reaching this important milestone in life.]

Today marks the official start of your lives as college graduates. Don’t think of this as the date when your parents stopped paying for your cell phone plan and car insurance. Think of it as a new beginning when you discover the joys of balancing your own checkbook and deciding whether to spend your money on rent or the latest designer dress.

This day calls to mind my favorite Latin quote: Tibi gratias ago Deo et non ex se ad replete FAFSA forma. Translation: “Thank God, I won’t have to fill out another FAFSA application.”

As you move through life, you’ll encounter people who you’ll feel are treating you unfairly – most notably your parents. But we are only doing this to help you in the long run – unless we’re just trying to yank your chain. However, I still stand by my rule about not leaving your curling irons on your bed and plugged in when you headed off to middle school each day. I apologize for letting my selfish desire to prevent our house from burning down interfere with your hairstyle fashion sense.

You have both accomplished so much. Emily, I’m not just talking about how you managed to stay awake through your 8am accounting class sophomore year – although, kudos on that impressive feat. I never could have done it.

It seems like just yesterday that you entered college with no idea what you wanted to do with the rest of your lives. Just four years later, you’ve already narrowed it down to “no job that requires operating a fork lift.” 

You’ve both matured in so many ways – from the quality of your tattoo selections to your taste in men. Aren’t you glad you didn’t elope with Stoner Steve when you were a freshman, Rachel? I am so proud – and relieved.

Now it’s time to give back. You can begin by giving back the camping gear you never used.

My advice to you is to look for a career that will stoke your passion. Rachel, you considered career options at a very early age. At age seven you declared you wanted to be the world’s first ballerina-astronaut-fireman-kitty cat petter. If you still wish to pursue this, I believe in you. But don’t discount too quickly your other passion of becoming a cardiology nurse as a fallback, if the fireman-cat thing doesn’t pan out.

As for how to pursue a successful career, perhaps the best advice I can give you is to study the many decisions your father made to further his career – then do exactly the opposite. I’d hate for either of you to look back at life when you’re my age, facing the stark reality that your career peaked at age 27 and you ended up throwing away your dreams to pursue the life of a humor writer. It still keeps your mom up at night.

Don’t hold back on pursuing your goals due to fears or anxieties. Press forward in spite of them – like you did so boldly, Emily, when at age six you overcame your fear of scissors by cutting off all your hair. For months afterward, people kept asking why we never mentioned that we had a son.

As you move through life, do not judge others too harshly – the way you concluded by age nine that I was the lamest, worst dad in the entire world. Now that you’re mature adults, I think we can all agree that Allison’s dad would hold that distinction.

Be careful with how you spend your money. Be sure to set aside at least 10% of your income for long-term savings. And remember this important investment advice: BUY LOW. SELL HIGH. It took your father far too many decades to realize it wasn’t the other way around.

Pay attention to those for whom life may not have shined so brightly as it has for you. While loaning a sorority sister your fake ID so she can buy beer may have seemed like a giving gesture at the time, perhaps you can stretch a little further in the future by helping others with slightly more pressing problems. Here’s a thought: you could donate your out-of-style Lululemon collection.to the nation of Burkina Faso. I’m sure you have enough to clothe at least half the population.

On this momentous occasion, I implore you to seek your destiny – unless you think your destiny involves joining the circus. As you look ahead to your future, ask yourself these important questions:

  • How can you make a positive impact on the world?
  • What can you do with your life that will make you want to get out of bed each day?
  • Where can you find a one-bedroom apartment for under $1,000 a month – because no, you can’t move back home to avoid paying rent. Besides, your bedroom has been converted into my man cave.

As your father, I want to thank you for the many life lessons each of you has taught me – like the importance of patience – and learning not to say the first thing that popped into my head when Rachel hosed down the family room (because “the pillows needed a bath”) or when Emily took a Sharpie to draw a giant mural of flowers on the living room wall (“I’m an artist – just like Mommy!”).

And now you’re all grown up. How did that happen so quickly? My little “angel monsters” have blossomed into two amazing, self-confident, and determined young adults. Now follow your dream – just so long as it doesn’t include asking anyone if they want fries with their order.

In closing, my counsel to you both is always to look at life with a grateful heart. I am deeply grateful for the joy each of you has given me as your dad. When you were young, every night at bedtime, when I would tuck you in, I’d kiss you on your foreheads and tell you: “I love you to the universe and back.” I still feel that way. Thank you for two decades of bedtime stories, soccer practices, gym meets, and butterfly kisses.

Congratulations, college graduates. Your mom and I are enormously proud of the people you’ve become. It’s your turn now. The world is your oyster. It’s up to you to figure out what that means – because I have no clue.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017

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  • Published On May. 30, 2017 by TEJ
  • 2 Comments


    1. Timothy Session
      6/1/17

      I’d have to congratulate you all for advancing to this milestone in life. May your next family adventures continue to be sown with Love, Joy and Happiness!


    2. eleanor
      6/2/17

      §ome good advice to your girls, Tim. The memories we have of them growing up will stay with us forever. We have all been blessed with two wonderful, thoughtful people. With many thanks to two great parents too. Love
      G & G.

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