Valedictorian she ain\u2019t! A High School Graduate she is.\nMercy me, it\u2019s been a while since I\u2019ve been at high school, but today was her high school graduation. We arrived early in hopes of finding front-row seating and an area in which we could all sit together, apparently, other families had the same idea. After shuffling through the crowded stadium filled with other proud families, we managed to find a section for all of us; I think our father\u2019s handicap (look-out, big blind Samoan man coming through) ensured our front-row seats.\nI ain\u2019t much for crowded places but today, the aluminum bleachers were my problem, not even the extra fat could comfortably cushion my seat. Because we arrived early, we waited for a while before graduation ceremony commenced, which gave me plenty of time to complain to myself. I sat there thinking about the uncomfortable seats, the crowded rooms, and wondered how soon this \u2018dog and pony\u2019 show would end!\nThe sound of \u201cPomp and Circumstance\u201d brought me out of my selfish fixation. Everyone stood up, cheered, shouted their Graduate\u2019s name, essentially, it was loud and proud. Of course, I found something more to be annoyed about, that is, until, I saw her unmistakable contour.\nAnd then I saw her face. \u201cMom, Dad, there she is!\u201d Through the procession she walked with her fellow-grads, tall and proud she was, and then she spotted us: walking and jumping, smiling from ear-to-ear, and waving at us. When she saw our father, who remained seated, his face awash with tears of pride and joy, she tried hard to choke back her tears, but the waterworks were flowing\u2013LOL.\nAs we all took our seats for commencement, my mind wandered off down memory lane. I thought about all the times I was annoyed, angry, and short-tempered with her because I wanted her to do well, to do better, to be empowered, to be self-sufficient. As I looked at her with her Valedictorian pride, I realized that all those moments when I lost my temper with her, well, it didn\u2019t matter. I should be proud of her! She should be proud of herself, her achievements, her accomplishments.\nMy little sister monitors our father\u2019s blood sugar levels, administers his insulin shots, she tutors and counsels our nephew, she helps our mom obsessively clean our house, she helps to chauffeur our father around town for church and household errands,… Eh! By the end of commencement, tears of pride and joy (and guilt over believing I may have been a bit too hard on her) flowed down my face.\nWe honored her as a Graduate. We celebrated her like a Valedictorian.\nAnd I celebrate with you, your Graduates\u2019 accomplishments from preschool, to primary school, to High School, to University. Congratulations! And remember to “wear sunscreen,” by Mary Schmich.\n \n(By Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, for Class of 1997 - Baz Luhrmann)\nLadies and gentlemen of the class of 2009:\n“WEAR SUNSCREEN!”\nIf I could offer you only one tip for the future, “sunscreen” would be it.\nThe long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists,\nwhereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.\nI will dispense this advice NOW!\nEnjoy the power and beauty of your youth.\nOh, never mind.\nYou will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded.\nBut 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.\nYou are not as fat as you imagine.\nDon’t worry about the future.\nOr worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.\nThe real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind,\nThe kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.\nDo one thing every day that scares you.\nSing\nDon’t be reckless with other people’s hearts.\nDon’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.\nFloss\nDon’t waste your time on jealousy.\nSometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind.\nThe race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.\nRemember compliments you receive.\nForget the insults.\nIf you succeed in doing this, tell me how.\nKeep your old love letters.\nThrow away your old bank statements.\nStretch\nDon’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.\nThe most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives.\nSome of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.\nGet plenty of calcium.\nBe kind to your knees.\nYou’ll miss them when they’re gone.\nMaybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t.\nMaybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t.\nMaybe you’ll divorce at 40.\nMaybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.\nWhatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much,\nor berate yourself either.\nYour choices are half chance.\nSo are everybody else’s.\nEnjoy your body.\nUse it every way you can.\nDon’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it.\nIt’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.\nDance\nEven if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.\nRead the directions, even if you don’t follow them.\nDo not read beauty magazines.\nThey will only make you feel ugly.\n“Brother and sister together we’ll make it through,\nSomeday a spirit will take you and guide you there\nI know that you’re hurting but I’ve been waiting there for you\nand I’ll be there just helping you out\nwhenever I can…”\nGet to know your parents.\nYou never know when they’ll be gone for good.\nBe nice to your siblings.\nThey’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.\nUnderstand that friends come and go,\nbut with a precious few you should hold on.\nWork hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get,\nthe more you need the people who knew you when you were young.\nLive in “New York City” once, but leave before it makes you hard.\nLive in “Northern California” once, but leave before it makes you soft.\nTravel\nAccept certain inalienable truths:\nPrices will rise.\nPoliticians will philander.\nYou, too, will get old.\nAnd when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young,\nprices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.\nRespect your elders.\nDon’t expect anyone else to support you.\nMaybe you have a trust fund.\nMaybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse.\nBut you never know when either one might run out.\nDon’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.\nBe careful whose advice you buy,\nbut be patient with those who supply it.\nAdvice is a form of nostalgia.\nDispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal,\nwiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.\nBut trust me on the sunscreen.\n“Brother and sister together we’ll make it through,\nSomeday a spirit will take you and guide you there\nI know that you’re hurting but I’ve been waiting there for you\nand I’ll be there just helping you out\nwhenever I can…”\nEverybody’s Free, Everybody’s Free\nTo Feel Good!