[The following are excerpts from a recent high school graduation address given by Tim Jones. The name of affluent, private school has been withheld to spare the institution further shame and embarrassment for having selected Mr. Jones to deliver the address. – TEJ]
Recently I gave a high school commencement address. Mostly I just read out loud some old VFTB columns I’d written about Donald Trump. Not sure the kids could hear me over the rap music pounding in their ear buds. I must say, those three hours just flew by.
I would like to thank everyone who made today possible. The esteemed faculty, administrators, guidance counselors and even the disgraced former assistant coaches, for everything they’ve done to help all of you reach this important milestone.
I would also like to acknowledge the countless contributions of your self-sacrificing parental figures, by whom I mean your mom, dad, step-dad, other step-dad, and nannies.
Perhaps most importantly, I want to acknowledge the makers of Ritalin and Adderall for helping you kids stay focused enough to complete an impressive 37% of your assignments.
Congratulations, [REDACTED] High School class of 2019. As I look around this dimly lit auditorium and behold a sea of mortarboards atop designer sunglasses, I am struck by all the untapped potential.
I ask you, the co-leaders of tomorrow, to indulge me as I impart a few pearls of wisdom. First, though, I sincerely apologize if my musings distract you from the text messages about tonight’s rave party at Nate’s. I hear it will be “totally lit” because his parents just left for Italy.
You will soon leave the halls of this fine institution behind. Some of you will embark on the journey called “life- how to avoid it”, thanks to your parents’ untraceable bribe that got you into Stanford. Well done, mom and dad. You have four more years to avoid facing reality – that is, unless you are expelled freshman year for never attending class. You might want to rethink your longstanding policy of playing League of Legends till 4a.m. (LOL!)
For those of you not fortunate enough to possess incriminating photos of the Dean of Admissions at the college of your choice (or any college), no worries. There are countless other career options awaiting you after your graduate from [Fill in the blank] Technical College: Horse Inseminator, Sewage Diver, Deodorant Tester, Roadkill Removal Specialist… The world is your oyster, as in oyster shucker. Go for it.
Congratulations, proud high school graduates. You did it! Your future looks bright. I am sure, if you look hard enough, you’ll find that dream six-figure, 20-hour/week job as a cruise ship bartender that you richly deserve. Reach for the stars!
Then there’s the rest of you – you know who you are. You decided college is not for you because you know everything already. Of course, you do. But three months from now, in the off chance your well-thought-out career plan is not unfolding as hoped, and your dreams of making millions as a day trader living in your parents’ basement are not panning out, please drop me a note when you apply for the coveted cashier position at McDonald’s or Burger King. Tough decision. My advice: Hold out for Mickey D’s. Better fries.
Soon into your university experience, you will be required to declare a major. The pressure is enormous, having to make a decision. So many enticing options: Medieval Astrological Studies, Auctioneering, Floral Management, Bagpiping…. One thing is certain: whatever you choose, it will be the wrong choice, which you will not discover until 3 semesters and $45,000 later. When you end up jobless with $100,000 in college loans due, don’t freak out. Remember, your parents co-signed the loans, so technically, they’re liable. Problem solved.
Graduates, I must forewarn you: there will be adjustments as you go forth. The biggest will be that there is no longer a helicopter pad for your parents. Your college professor will not take a call from your mommy explaining that your allergies were acting up and you could not finish the term paper. Your boss will not engage in a text dialogue with your daddy about why you deserve a raise for not missing a day of work in three weeks. You’re in the big leagues now.
I realize some of this might come as a disappointment, but out in the real world, things are a little different. By all means, congratulations on those trophies for Toddler T-ball participation and your 4th grade project on the planets (even though you left out three of them, including Earth). Cherish the Gold Star for picking up most of the crayons you threw across the classroom in 7th grade. And your cogent debate team argument that Lil Wayne is a greater influence in the music world than the Beatles, well, that’s one for yearbook.
I admit, the fact you’ve memorized the lyrics to every Ariana Grande song is pretty “dope” and should count for something. But then, I’m a fan. However, I’m here to tell you that the world out there may not value your incredible childhood “achievements” as much as your parents did.
There are no Smiley Stickers for showing up to work on time. And while it might not seem fair, you probably won’t get that corner office in Chicago with a view of the Pacific when they promote you from Administrative Assistant to Administrative Specialist. Be patient.
These are the proud parents of Joey Grimaldi. He graduated with a 2.3 GPA and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed – with the Babes.” He’s decided to forgo college for a gap year as he entertains his options – both stock and dating. To fund this venture, he plans to live at home and ask his parents for a raise in his allowance.
Your unlimited self-confidence is impressive. You can thank your parents for that, because ever since you were in the womb, they told you incessantly how amazing you were and how you could do anything you set your mind to.
I hate to break it to you, kids. Actually, you’re not quite as special as you think you are. And here is a word you’ll need to get used to hearing: No. As in, “No, we’re not going to install a hot tub in the employee lounge to inspire your creativity.” And “No, you can’t take four days off next week to attend Coachella with ‘your posse.’ We’re on deadline.”
The truth of the matter is, in the real world, not everyone is a winner. Some of us end up losing. If you don’t believe me, google “Gary Busey.” You’re not a real winner if you can’t handle losing. You need to learn how to pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and push onward. (Readers, I apologize for the previous words of profound wisdom. They came from left field.)
Students, in closing, it’s time someone told you the truth about how life beyond your parents’ protective cocoon actually works. It isn’t always fair. Mom won’t be there to tell your boss to stop being so mean to you for assigning so much work. And success might take a little more effort, persistence, and time than it took for you to break your record score in Grand Theft Auto.
Hey, I could be wrong. Maybe you are every bit as perfect as your parents have protested for the past 18 years. But before you show up at that important interview for the killer job as a video game tester, you might want to remember to say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” give a firm handshake, and make direct eye contact. Oh, and take the ear buds out.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
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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 2019
I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but, begrudgingly, I may have to put my island life retirement on pause and return to work. That’s because odds are I will be selected as the next president of my alma mater, the prestigious University of Virginia.
You see, I received this email from some guy named Louis something-or-other, whose title is “Rector”, whatever that means. Sounds important. So, Louis informs me the University of Virginia is seeking my input as an esteemed alumnus as to who should be the school’s next head honcho. He even included a survey. I love surveys.
Naturally, I was deeply honored by this personal invitation he sent to me and 27,000 other alumni. I sure hope he overlooks that my last donation to UVa was in 1985. I was short on cash then, so I sent a $25 Starbucks gift card regifted to me for Christmas.
The more I looked at Louis’s questions, the more obvious it became that I was the perfect candidate. Check out the survey and my responses below.
Dear University of Virginia alumnus: Identifying the right leader for our future will depend upon the collective wisdom of the University community, so we appreciate you sharing your thoughts via this survey.
When you think of the University of Virginia, what sort of community do you envision the next president fostering?
MY RESPONSE: As your next university president, I envision a community that believes in effective communication. That’s why I would give special funding to Speech Communication, my extremely lame major, which only qualified me to flip burgers for a living or go on to grad school. It’s time we make Speech Communication the major of the future.
Continue reading “Meet the Likely Next President of My Alma Mater – ME” »
I just returned from my 40th college reunion. It was an amazing experience to reconnect with many people I have not seen in decades. What college did I attend, you ask? Well if you guessed Harvard University, you’re extremely close – in fact, my alma mater shares several letters in common with Harvard, including a V, an R, an A and the entire word “University” (University of Virginia).
One thing I’ve always preached to my daughters is the importance of being authentic, and to be proud of who you are – which can be a challenge at times when you realize you’re a humor writer. To be honest, I was a little anxious about seeing my old college cronies. Sure, I’ve had my share of achievements since I graduated – like having never once been convicted of a major felony. Or the fact that I am a published author of a book that has sold roughly 100,000 copies (if you round up to the nearest 100,000).
I arrived at the reunion’s opening reception, and the first person I met was Brett Farnsworth III. I told him I wrote a weekly humor blog. As though he were experiencing an adverse Pavlovian reaction to the word “blog”, Brett abruptly excused himself, proclaiming he had to step away for a phone interview with CNN to discuss his role spearheading NASA’s manned flight program to Mars – ETA: 2022.
Next, I bumped into Richard Brantley, who lived two doors down in my first-year dorm. “Tim, wow, I barely recognized you with your weight gain. And when did you lose so much hair?” I started feeling a bit self-conscious, but I tried to be polite, asking him what he’d been up to in recent years. “Oh, nothing much,” he started. “Same old – same old. Still Senior Vice President of Global Strategy for Apple. What about you?” A nagging feeling was mushrooming inside me that my career accomplishments might not stack up to those of my fellow alums.
In an attempt to preserve my rapidly crumbling self-esteem, I went into improv mode. “Um, well, since you asked…. I was recently promoted to Executive Senior Vice President of International Brand Management for P&G – you know, Proctor & Gamble. I just flew in from our Geneva manufacturing facility for the reunion.” Okay, so I lied. Sue me. I just didn’t know how to make “I write blogs about being a bad parent” sound impressive. On the one hand, I felt badly about the ruse. On the other hand, Richard was clearly awed by how I engineered a five percent gain in market share in our consumer brands division in my first quarter in the job. So much for my plans to be authentic.
Continue reading “Trading Stories at My College Reunion” »
[Author’s note: The following is a memo I plan to send to my two daughters upon their college graduations, informing them that they are now officially responsible for their own lives – and phone bills.]
MEMO TO: Junior members of Jones Family Enterprises
FROM: Senior Executive Team
Congratulations to the junior members of Jones Family Enterprises [henceforth JFE] on your recent completion of your undergraduate studies. The Senior Executive Team is confident that your long-term economic forecast is bright. We wish we could say the same for your near-term economic outlook. This memo is to inform you of an important decision the executive committee has made regarding your status on the JFE org chart.
After a series of challenging years in which JFE has experienced steadily declining economic growth and spiraling costs, primarily in the area of our educational assistance program, the senior management has decided to implement some immediate cost-cutting measures in order to preserve the organization’s long-term cash reserves. This decision has forced us to make difficult personnel decisions to improve efficiencies and eliminate waste.
Effective immediately, JFE is announcing a 50% reduction in force. As a consequence, we are forced to terminate your roles as fully-funded dependents of this organization and re-classify your status as “non-essential employees.” We considered all other viable options before coming to this decision, including a recommendation by our firm’s Co-CEO, Ms. Jones, to eliminate my position on the executive steering committee. But that recommendation failed to receive the necessary two-thirds vote required for passage by the two-person executive steering committee.
Continue reading “Memo to our kids: The family has decided to downsize” »
Every year about this time, thousands of families endure an emotionally trying ritual: Sending their young high school graduate off to college – or in the case of my neighbor Bert Zablinski’s under-achieving boy Freddie, a four-week correspondence course for road construction flag operators. For many distraught parents it means driving hundreds of miles in a tightly cramped car filled with college gear, then coming to a startling realization – they forgot to bring one essential item: Their child. Don’t let this happen to you.
The experience of sending your offspring to college is different for every family. But there is one feeling almost every parent shares: a desperate hope they’ll have the winning Powerball lottery tickets so they can pay for college. That’s their Plan A. Most parents don’t have a Plan B, now that by latest estimates the average cost of four years of college recently has surpassed the GNP of Uruguay.
Continue reading “Freshman Year College 1,375-Item Bare Essentials Packing Checklist” »
I’ve decided to come out of the closet about my little dark secret. I’ve lived with it in quiet shame my entire life. Until now, nobody has known about it. Not even my kids. Will they respect me after they read my public confession? Will you?
I simply can’t hold this secret in any longer. I hope I won’t ruin my marriage. This is really hard to talk about. I am searching for the right words. Okay, here it comes……
I am ………… a lifelong……… slooooooow reeeeeeader.
I confess. My slow reading problem started in first grade. I would read a passage like this: See Dick. See Jane. See Spot. See Dick throw the ball. See Jane catch the ball. See Jane through the ball. See Spot catch the ball… and I’d think, Golly! (What do you want – I was in first grade.) This is going to take forever! Couldn’t they have shaved off five pages simply by stipulating in one concisely-worded sentence that the three of them were playing with the ball? Little did I know then that Dick and Jane were just the first chapter of my slow reading saga.
In seventh grade, our teacher at my all-boys school, Mr. Alanson, made us read Marjori Kinnan Rawling’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1938 novel The Yearling, about a young deer named Flag that becomes a family pet, then eventually dies, and everybody cries. Scientists should have stopped searching then and there for a cure for insomnia. I had discovered it. Took me forever to wade through this award-winningly boring book. [Suggestion to the author: Marjori, next time, spend a little more time on plot development and little less time describing a tattered leaf’s meandering journey down a gurgling creek.]
Continue reading “My painful dark confession” »