Class of 2017 graduates,

I want to take this opportunity to offer you the benefits, unsolicited, of all the wisdom I've accumulated in the two decades since I was in your position: fresh out of college and about to enter adulthood against my will. It is not in the nature of 18-22 year olds to take advice, but it is in the nature of people nearing 40 to look back on the advice they received and realize that some of it was helpful. So, without further literary foreplay, please remember the following as you move forward in life:

1. The two areas in which you should never try to economize are toilet paper and airplane tickets. One-ply toilet paper will save you a buck or two, but the costs of failure are catastrophic. Spend the extra money. And you will be enticed by the ticket on Spirit Airlines or something similar because it is $100 cheaper than every other fare. By the time you realize how miserable your flight experience is, combined with all the extra fees they will hit you with for the privilege of getting on the plane with your luggage, you will find that you didn't save money at all. You just flew a shittier airline and were more miserable than absolutely necessary.

2. Guac is extra. Guac is always extra, and honestly it's overpriced and not worth it. Avocados taste vaguely like soap.

3. Learn to cook a handful of things. It doesn't have to be fancy. The money you spend dining out will do more damage to your budget than you realize.

4. Leave your college town now. You're done there. It will be tempting to stick around because you like it and it's familiar. It will become sad very quickly, though, when you are That Guy Who Graduated and is Hanging Around Townie-Like. Moving sucks. Making new friends as an adult is hard. Do it anyway.

5. Don't go back to your hometown either. There is nothing there for you. Do things that have a future, not a past.

6. Everything sucks right now, and whatever job you find is likely to suck. I'm sorry. We are all sorry. But any extended period of idleness will make it that much harder to get into the workforce later. Tough it out. Often after a year or two in the basement of any profession you can make some connections that will better your standing in a couple of years. Who you know is important.

7. Take it easy with the alcoh…oh fuck it, you will probably spend your entire 20s drunk. Why not. It's the last time your body will be able to handle "partying" as you currently define it.

8. Buy one outfit now, and possibly an outfit that has the ability to be altered, for weddings. You are going to go to about 100 weddings in the next five to ten years and it can get really pricey fast.

9. Don't worry if everyone else is getting married and you're not. Statistically, half of these marriages will fail. It's OK. It's life.

10. This is the best time in your life to fail at anything. The consequences are less severe right now than they ever will be. In ten or fifteen years when you have more responsibilities – children, spouses, financial obligations, etc. – it will be extremely costly and impractical to move to Hollywood and try to become an actor, or write the great American novel, or open a small business, or try to unicycle across Siberia, or work on a cruise ship to see the world drunk and for free, or give it a go with your band, or set yourself up to provide a service that it may turn out is not in demand, or open that bar, or anything else. For most of the ideas and goals you have that do not involve working a fairly dull job for a paycheck, it's now or likely never. You can try something like this and fail miserably at 25 without crippling your future. At 55, you can't. It's OK. The hoary inspirational advice is right: a lot of very successful people went bankrupt, sometimes multiple times. If there is something you want to try that you will end up regretting if you don't try it, do it now. If you fail, nobody except you will feel the failure. And then you'll be young enough to start over.

11. Don't go to grad school unless you actually want to go to grad school. It's too pricey now to go just because you can't think of anything else to do.

12. Get an adult email address. Nobody is going to hire "" And while you're at it, go to a good bar and figure out which Adult Drink you like. You can't go to professional events with adults and ask for the neon flavored vodka nonsense at college bars.

13. Never let inertia make decisions for you. You don't have to marry him just because you've been dating for so long. You don't have to keep working at Job X because you've been there for 15 years already and blah blah. You don't have to buy a house just because it's that time, or because everyone else is doing it. You always have a choice about these things. Maybe getting married, having 2.3 kids, buying a house, and all that stuff is perfect for you. Just remember that you don't have to do any of it unless you really want to. The leading cause of unhappiness in the affluent world is people making choices to do things they do not actually want to do. When you think hard about it, there is very little you "have to" do.

14. If you don't have hobbies or interests, get some. Beyond college it is very difficult to meet other adults to socialize with.

15. Get out of the house. Nothing good happens to someone who is sitting at home alone. Go do activities you might not be super excited about or attend events that are only marginally interesting. Sitting around alone is a good way to ensure nothing changes. You want things to change, and change for the better. Get out and meet people. Most of the people you meet in your twenties will amount to nothing in your life, but one or two of them will make all the difference.

Everything is Terrible All the Time,


  • Avocados do not taste even remotely like soap. Try eating some, sometime, without the other ingredients; they taste like creamy vegetable matter.

    Cilantro, on the other hand, does taste like soap, so much so that you can google "I hate cilantro" and see that this is a fairly common opinion. Sadly, cilantro is often added to guacamole, making much of it "taste vaguely like soap."

  • 1) The first time I saw a baby make a Mr. Yuck face was when I gave him a little spoonful of mashed fresh avocado.

    2) Now ice cream, they'll grab the spoon.

    3) Does a tuxedo over an Everything Is Terrible All the Time t-shirt count as an "outfit?"

    4) This should replace all commencement addresses everywhere, for all time.

  • I would add this advice, which I was reminded of just this morning, while finishing a hike that was a little too strenuous for me: learn to tolerate pain and discomfort; learn strategies for distracting yourself from them. Because there will be a whole lot of both – physical and mental – in most lives.

  • Cilantro, on the other hand, does taste like soap, so much so that you can google "I hate cilantro" and see that this is a fairly common opinion.

    This is not an common "opinion." It is the result of a common genetic defect. I truly hope that NIMH or the CDC or someone is out there running up a trillion-dollar tab on CRISPRs, tearing apart RNA by the tankerload, to relieve you of your congenital disability.

    Soon, my brother, God-willing, you will be able to join the rest of us at the grown-ups' table.

  • We shall be waiting for you with bowls of that minced onion/minced cilantro garnish stuff that is so damn good on a taco.

  • Jack the Cold Warrior says:

    Great advice. Especially about the alcohol use in your twenties.

    I actually quit alcohol except for a good German Beer every 6 months or so when I was 25. My Best Buddy in the Infantry unit where I was stationed (Federal Republic of Germany, 1978) had just left to go back to the states. We had been averaging about 3/4's of a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 every night for several months, to cope with the impossible work load and long hours of staff officers led by a Pentagon whiz kid Battalion Commander.

    The Military Services in the 70's were awash with alcohol for many officers and NCO's. The EM's added in pot, hash, qualudes and hallucinogenics. Made for very interesting Monday morning formation when a few guys would pass out…

  • 16.) Understand the consequences before you pull the lever at the casino or the polling place. One is a crap shoot, the other one is throwing money away while being plied with watered down cocktails*.


    All commencement addresses given by anyone who hasn't failed a few times are pretty much useless nonsense.

    Based on that idea alone, mine would be worth a LOT!

    Cilantro tastes like soap to some folks, like notsoap to others. I used to abhor it but I've come to embrace it. Not sure that it's acquired taste but it's my best guess. Avocados, otoh, taste like sex used to feel–equal parts pleasure and guilt.

    * And becoming increasingly less common, I'm told.

  • @ Jack the Cold Warrior:

    I was in Wiesbaden back in 69-72 when it was still a USAFE base (now it's USA Aviation-last I ).

    Happy hour at NCO club, well drinks were fifteen cents, calls were twenty cents. A .5L Henninger (Hessian AP Beer) was a quarter. Heinies, Becks, Lowenbrau, Dortmunder, Bitburger all cost thirty cents. Even on an E-2's pay you could get hammered before 7 PM most nights.

    Then, when I was 21 or 22 and close to rotating back to CONUS I got some buds who were in hash in a major way. They were buying kilos and breaking them down. They'd sell me 10g for $5. Needless to say we smoked a shitload of hash. Good times–bad airmen. But, I worked as a supply weenie so I couldn't crash anything but my desk.

  • I think it would be a serious hoot to do a commencement address in George C. Scott's Patton character's voice. That would scare the graduates back into pre-school.

  • Badtux – For those of us at a certain age, "washing your mouth out with soap" was a real thing for saying "bad" words, which included "shut-up" when I was a kid.

    I gave our high school's commencement address yesterday. Usual pablum "work hard, learn English, meet a lot of people…blah blah blah…". The Chinese principal's address was like all the ones I've heard over here – "Remember you're Chinese, you represent China, China is the best country with the best system, PLEASE COME HOME AFTER YOUR WESTERN EDUCATION AND BRING THOSE CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS WITH YOU SO WE CAN GET RID OF ALL THE FOREIGNERS AND TAKE OVER THE WORLD…"(ok, that last was implied).

    You speech is much better except for the guac. Guac is awesome, but then I have the good genetics that loves cilantro.

  • Just a comment on #1. If you're female, one ply toilet paper may be worth the risk. Example, when my male roommate and I lived alone in our apartment in Ocean City, we each bought a roll of toilet paper about every 2 or 3 weeks; when each of us had a girlfriend living there, it was a 12 pack every 2 weeks or so. That said, point taken.

  • @Badtux – whenever I was stupid enough to say a 'bad' word in front of my parents. I still remember the tang of some of them…

  • @April:

    Fortunately for me, one of my parents cursed like a sailor with tourettes and my father was WORSE! That was with 3 nuns for aunts.

    Back in the 90's Curt Russell was asked by the graduating class at Governor Dummer Academy (since renamed to "Governor's Academy") in Newbury, MA to deliver the commencement address. When the school's admin found out about it, they were a little nervous. Turns out Russell did a better job than expected. Certainly better than Trumpligula's self-indulgent, self-congratulatory comments at the USCGA. I just looked at Barack Obama's 2011 remarks and the current C-in-C's*. Holy fuck!

    * Crybaby-in-Chief

  • As someone in his mid 40s I'll echo Mo up top. This should just be run on the teleprompter for every commencement address speaker.

    Also, guacamole tastes yummy but is always, always extra.

  • Avocados and cilantro DO in fact taste like soap to many people, it is a flavor receptor many people don't possess.

    I agree with almost everything, but wholeheartedly with #1. Life is too short to rub sandpaper on your ass.

  • I loooove cilantro. And parsley and fennel and dill and cumin. There's an Indian spice called asafoetida, which as you can gather from its Western name does not appeal to many Westerners. It's also in the same plant family, and I even like that.

    Just thought y'all needed to know.

    As for avocado, I can take it or leave it.

  • @democommie, it would be even more of a hoot to do a speech in Patton's actual voice. Though I think the only person who could have done it justice was the late great Mel Blanc.

  • LOL @ tacos being part of the grown-up table. Tacos are cheap kiddie food you feed them because they're not worth spending the good food on. Or food you make because you're down to your last dollar but you still need something in your belly.

    I also think cilantro tastes like soap, and thank April for the explanation of why we of a certain age know exactly what soap tastes like. I don't mind guacamole; most of the time it tastes like a big old nothing, but if it's mixed with salt and lime juice, it tastes like salt and lime juice, which is nice.

    There are lots of genetic quirks that are just human genetic variation, not defects to be fixed. For example, antihistamines do not make me sleepy, but they do control allergic reactions. I can pop a couple of Bendadryl and get on with my day safely. Very useful this time of year when the poison ivy is taking over the back yard (I'm extremely allergic) and the ticks are infested with ticks of their own.

    As for Ed's commencement speech–wow, do I wish you'd spoken at my graduation! (instead, we sweltered inside the college gym for 3 hours listening to some rando the college pulled from somewhere drone on about diarrhea in the third world…true story). Your 20s are your time to take risks and to fail, because the only one you're hurting is yourself, and likely some relative will bail you out if you fail too badly.

    As for military and fun substances; I joined after the crackdown (no pun intended). The Boomers had the party, Gen X had to pay for it. Not only did they put you through the wringer just to get alcohol (I was over 21 so legal in every state plus overseas, and I still had to keep proving it night after night after night at the club–"Look. I was over 21 last night, I was over 21 the night before, I was over 21 last week…WHY do you keep carding me?"), but if you were caught with anything from pot on up, you were O-U-T out. Some of that stuff still went on, but it was much more discreet.

  • Cilantro? WTF? That's what we've come to?
    Some years ago the net was on fire with bitching about cilantro and all I could think was stupid sheltered white kids got nothing better to do and no real life problems to contend with, and now the shit's hijacked this comment thread.

  • @mago; if it soothes your spirit, think of cilantro as a metaphor for the human condition and the variations therein.

  • @Mago – What's interesting about cilantro (like a lot of things) is that the like or dislike of it is (mostly) genetic. Trying to persuade someone whose taste bugs register "soap" that it's really good, is a pretty futile exercise. It's not a choice. Likewise, science is showing more and more that political persuasions are also physiology-based, thus again largely determined by genetics (although obviously environment is also a factor.)

    All the yammering we do amongst ourselves about how to reach the far right might also be an equal waste of time. Forums (fora? forae?) like these can be good for bitch sessions, and introspection, but perhaps they can also be a force for support, and the production of constructive ideas for resistance and future actions. Personally I think it's time we just give up on the RWNJ and focus on how to fight against regressive policies and what things we need to do to move our country forward.

  • @ Mago:
    Well played, Sir! Except..way more than 140 characters in your wonderful twitrant. Otherwise, positively trumpliguland. Still, SAD!!

  • @ April:

    One thing I like about this and other blogs is that I can always find something here* that makes the right look like the complete bastards that they are and use it when I'm "debating" with some moron. Stuff like the never refuted assertion that Trumpligula and Melanomia dine on braised babeez every night that they're at Marm-A-Ladol resort**.

    * Notwithstanding the fact that it's something I said a day or two ago elsewhere–it still counts as, "I read somewhere" or "people are saying" anecdata.

    **This particular assertion is quite recent (about 15 seconds or so old, in fact), hey you work with what you can make up, not what you wish you could make up.

  • xxx: Learn the rules, read the directions.
    Yes, there will be times when you will be forced to break the rules and ignore directions.
    Those are emergencies!
    Other people drive with confidence because they expect you to know the rules and to follow them. Same goes for your work life, same goes for your time in a bar.

    Read the directions, know the system, follow the rules so you know exactly how to break them when it becomes necessary.

  • #15 was plainly obvious to me, and I'm glad, because it's totally true.
    #10 directly conflicted with advice I was given, and I regret it. My life is very good, but hoo-boy should I have taken more risks.

  • Do not go to grad school. Ever. And if you are foolish enough to do so , certainly don't pay for it yourself. This is if we're talking grad school in the humanities or even STEM. Law school is (sometimes) a different matter, but #11 applies here. Don't go unless you really want to.

  • I went to MIT back when they made sure we understood why one never wanted to stint on toilet paper. The bathrooms in all of the older buildings used a type of toilet paper called Springfield Oval manufactured in Springfield, MA. It wasn't dispensed on rolls, but on a funny oval contraption as the name suggests. It was impossible to get more than two sheets at a time since the roll didn't rotate. It went back and forth. The paper, hard won from the dispenser, was coarse and single-ply. It was a good source of crude bathroom humor and taught a valuable life lesson.

    Luckily, it was on its way out. Katharine Dexter McCormick, the spice heiress, had successfully funded the birth control pill and then built a women's dormitory at MIT, so more women were showing up on campus, and women were not going to sit still for this kind of thing in the bathroom. Unlike men, women have standards. A female friend of mine did a study of MIT bathrooms and documented the disparity in facilities for men and women. She even did a slide presentation featuring a view and critique of each and every women's room on campus. Remodeling began. Female MIT engineers were turning urinals into decorative planters. Springfield Oval's days were numbered.

    I gather that this product is long gone, but so many of us now buy Charmin' Ultra Plus and won't settle for anything less. We need more women in technical fields. If encouraging gender diversity at MIT had resulted only in the elimination of Springfield Oval, then that alone would be an argument in its favor.

  • Jack the Cold Warrior says:


    You had the low prices on beer and booze in FRG…It was higher in 76-79 due to Nixon/Ford hyperinflation… But my older brother had it even better in 63-65. He was in the Recon Company for 24th Infantry Division near Munich… Exchange rate was 5 marks to the dollar… EM's in heaven….

    Wiesbaden is now US Army Europe HQ.. MI brigade w/3 BN's, lots of Signal units, and all the other associated big HQ stuff. Has an aviation unit that I imagine flys generals all over NATO… The big base for aviation is my old base at Storck Barracks, Illeshiem. They rotate Combat Aviation Brigades from the State's there for ~ 9 month stints. The units mainly exercise in Eastern Europe and Baltic NATO members. No Dependents, but the troops are in the old family housing buildings, 6 EM to a 3 bedroom Apt. NCO's get their own rooms… Right now the CAB from Fort Drum is there…

    As for General Patton, yes he had a high, squeaky voice. As an Infantry Captain in Normandy, my dad was detailed as one of his aides.. He didn't like the duty because they had similar temperaments- mercurial. Finally, Patton chewed Dad out for something another aide did. Later, while in the command car, Patton asked him why he was angry, Dad replied "I don't like being a dog robber for a general." Dad got reassigned to command an infantry company, which is what he wanted…thus ended his 2 week stint as a general's aide. The other good story about the experience… Late one night Patton couldn't be found anywhere around the HQ.. A search was instigated.. Dad found Patton in a forest clearing, on his knees, praying and crying. He allowed the General his privacy, pretending to walk up AFTER the praying was over… Not the kind of thing people associate with Patton…

  • @Jack the Cold Warrior:

    I read a biographical piece about Patton a while back that alluded to both his piety and profanity.

    When I was in Wiesbaden, first at the Air Base and then at Lindsey Air Station, HQ USAFE we had a decidedly enviable situation–unless of course you just didn't want to be in the military. Oh well, you take the good with the beer.

  • #10 – Best advice in the whole post.

    #13 – Close second and the exact mistake I made.

    Great stuff.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Also, the following words of advice:
    1. Never argue with a man with a tattoo on his face.

    2.Never hold or hug a creature with less than two legs, or more than four – at least, not unless your major or minor in college involved snakes and/or insects.

    3. And finally, never ever take the person up on at the pool table in the bar, when he/she says something like, "Hey buddy, I'll bet you $50 bucks that if you hold that cue ball up to your ear, I can make it squirt Jack Daniels in it."
    Because if you DO take the bet, I can guarantee you that in a few seconds, you'll be holding a wet cue ball, with an earful of Jack Daniels!

  • HoosierPoli says:

    I am 29 and have never been to a wedding as an adult. I almost went to one but I missed it by a month because I moved out of the country. This says quite a bit about me, I think.

  • I disagree with you about the avocados but the rest of it is pretty much spot on. I say this looking back from 60.

  • anotherbozo says:

    Go through a quotation anthology some time and you'll find that some of the most pungent pronouncements were made by obscure names, not famous ones. It's time commencement speakers were chosen for past insights, not famous names.

    A dark horse like Ed would have lit up the internet, gone viral, for Chrissakes. Sunscreen, my ass.

  • @ Hoosier Poli:

    I went to numerous weddings between my 18th and 30th birthdays.

    I didn't go to any as an adult until I stopped getting drunk at age 32.515068493151 when I stopped getting shitfaced while drinking.

  • Prairie Bear says:

    My small-town HS commencement speaker was a GOP state senator, chosen by our principal, from the next town over, back when there were GOP politicians who were not only not unspeakably evil, but halfway decent human beings. So that really dates me. I have no memory of the content of his talk, but remember that stylistically it was the standard pep talk and that he delivered it fairly well. I do actually remember his name — I'm sure the sole reason is that one of my older brothers, now sadly departed, off-handedly commented that in ten years I wouldn't remember the guy's name. My college commencement speaker is a complete blank. I wish I could have had Ed for both of them.

    @ April: I thought maybe "taste bugs" was a deliberate malaprop coinage (yes that's an oxymoron — isn't it?). I'm totally going to steal it.

  • Re: 14 and 15, I discovered a phone game called Ingress (like Pokemon GO but more tower defense / capture the flag) a couple of years back that expanded my social circle in ways I could never have imagined, while getting me out of the house.

    @Katydid Pasadena (and L.A. in general), has incredibly good taco trucks, many of which are open late. Not really kid's menu. At worst, it's drunk food, like those cellophane-wrapped sesame crackers in Japan.

  • ChickenLady says:

    1 – Other things never to skimp on: tattoos & cosmetic surgery

    2 – I hated cilantro for years, and yes I thought it tasted like soap. But since it was in just about everything (guac, salsa, salad) I ended up eating it often and gradually came to love it. I mean really love it.

    3 – Never date a guy who says he doesn't masturbate.

  • @ Major Kong:

    I'm flying to Denver in two weeks on SWA. As an Airline professional can you tell me wheether I should request an exemption from my weight class Lardo Heavyweight due to age or just ask them to list me at the weight I feel, 124 lbs.?

    I'm only asking 'cuz Southwest has no "class seating"; so i't not like I can tick off on a request for the "No punching" section.

  • Pete Gaughan says:

    I never really felt pity for you before, Ed. But suddenly the tragedy of the Midwest is brought home to me that it's a place where (1) guac tastes bad and (2) guac is always extra. The horror! The greatest guac dilemma we Californians face is, do we splurge and go to the place where they mix the guac right at our table?

  • @The Mason; my recollection of LA and taco trucks are the abominnation of fish tacos, combining several unspeakably-disgusting things including 1) cardboard breaded fish and 2) mayo, which is the Devil's…spit. Yeah, spit.

  • So, getting back to the notion of commencements; 100-some students got up and walked out of Mike Pence's speech at their commencement. How awesome is that?!?!

  • @ Katydid:

    At Football JESUS U., no less. I wonder what sort of torture it must have been for VP Penis to enter the Whore of Babylon campus, deal with the Papists and their brainwashed minions, steeped in false religions–whoops, they're all false, my bad–and EEEEEEEEEEEEEVUL evolutionary biology! He'll be prayin' deep into the nignt for months to come to cleanse his soul.

    It must have been a little jarring to have people who disagree with his and Trumpligula's actions here and abroad walk out on him. They usually vet all of the rally participants and don't let anyone in who LOOKS disagreeable.

  • @demmo

    I didn't realize SWA was weighing people these days. Based on some of the folks I see on SWA flights I don't think you have anything to worry about.

    Note – if you have your choice try to sit just forward of the wing. That's where the center of gravity is and the best ride in any kind of turbulence.

  • CUND – I used to own several snakes. They give great hugs! They wrap around your arm or torso, tighten into a gentle hug, and then stay there until you physically remove them.

    Bear – It's all yours!

    Also paint. Cheap paint is never worth it. Amazingly, paint in China is outrageously expensive – over 100 bucks for 5 liters. Prolly one of the reasons everything looks so shitty over here.

  • @Demo; we hosted our friends for dinner tonight and some of the talk was about the fundagelical insistance that Catholics are Not Christians. Particularly stupid is if they were raised Catholic, as Pence was. Another part of the talk was Fox News' indignant assertion that 80% of the news about Trump is negative. Our consensus at the table; because Trump is doing horrible, deplorable things *every single day*, and it's proof of biased media that only 80% of the news about him is negative.

    @Major Kong; the wife of my neighbor just flew to Minnesota on Spirit and was very unhappy that she was charged for her suitcase. Like Demo, I had no idea some airlines weighed people.

    @April; live and learn–I had no idea paint was expensive in China. Bedsheets are outrageously expensive in Holland and France. I'm not talking about luxury linens; even simple cotton sheets are ridiculously expensive for no apparent reason. Several Christmases in a row, I sent flannel bedsheets to my Dutch friends because even with the overseas shipping charges, it was cheaper to buy LL Bean sheets over here and ship them via the US Post Office than for them to go to a department store and buy them there.

  • If one makes executive decisions with a Marin County mindset then fatties gotta pay for their weight. Or something.

  • @Pete There are plenty of great Mexican cuisine restaurants here in Indiana, or at least in Bloomington. The guac tastes great and they make it fresh for you at your table. You just have to know where to go. :)

  • Great post (and speech). I never went back to my college town after i graduated even though I loved it there. I went into the Peace Corps (Ethiopia), which changed my life and greatly influenced my career. Learned new skills (foreign language, teaching, learning how to ride a horse, etc.). Twenties is the time to experiment with your life (so long as it is not self-destructive).

  • For about 25-years I practically lived on airplanes and in hotels for the jobs I had.

    I was once on a hellish 4-hour flight in coach all because I wanted to save some money. AWFUL flight. Cramped, noisy, bad seat, people around me jerks, etc.

    Halfway into the flight I thought: "How much money would I pay – right now! – not to be here?"

    My answer to myself was: Everything in my wallet! I got my wallet out of my pocket and there was about $500 in it. Would I have paid that at that very moment? Damn right I would!

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