My Address to the Graduating Class of 2010

Posted by Marlinee on Jul 8, 2010 in Middle Age |

Not counting high school, I have sat in your midst three times so I’ve heard many of these speeches. This one will, I hope, be more useful than most. Here is some advice to get you successfully through the next few years of your life and career.

You will rarely regret what you did

Unless you are planning to be an axe murderer, there will be little to regret about the things you choose to do. Sure, all of the choices may not work out, but usually the worst case scenario is that you will learn something. In my case, I chose to move to Saskatoon to take a job. Mind you it was a good job and a step up on my resume, but Saskatoon was not the most exciting place to live as a twenty-something (or for that matter, at any age) and I soon began plotting my return to Toronto. Although I may have had a better outcome with a different choice, this one actually worked out pretty well in the end. Because I was bored, I decided to take some courses at the University of Saskatchewan. This led to applying to the business school and starting an M.B.A. (back in the day when it actually meant something), which turned into my ticket back to Toronto to complete my studies full time at U of T. Because I was being paid a ridiculous amount of money and had not too many places to spend it (the most chic store in Saskatoon was, and probably still is, the Army & Navy store, where there is an entire aisle of rubber boots), I returned with enough in the bank to put myself through two years of school. I also returned with a mink coat, but that was more or less a necessity at the 52nd parallel. I cut an avant-guard swath through the corridors of U of T in my mink and army fatigues, but that’s a whole other set of advice. Suffice to say that most of what you are wearing underneath your gowns today will look completely ridiculous in ten years.

You will frequently regret what you didn’t do

The reason you will regret what you didn’t do is that you will never know what the outcome would have been. It’s like choosing a door on The Price is Right – oh wait, you probably don’t know what that is… Unfortunately the real world is not like World of Warcraft, where you can have as many avatars as you like and all of them can have divergent adventures simultaneously. You will face many situations where you have to choose a direction and some options will lose out. You won’t always regret what you decided to do (see above), but at pivotal points you will need to think very carefully about which fork in the road you decide to take, because it is a one way trip. When I graduated with my B.A., it was pretty clear I would need further education to be adequately employable. Frequent checks of the job postings failed to reveal a high demand for philosophers, so I had to decide what to do next. I decided on two options: library school (because I liked to read) and law school (because why not? And besides my philosophy training gave me a very solid grounding in forming logical arguments). Requisite aptitude tests were taken successfully, applications were dispatched, and then I waited, still not sure which choice to make. In the end, I just took the first acceptance that came in the mail, which turned out to be admittance to the M.L.S. program at Dalhousie University. Not that I necessarily regret that choice (see above) because it led to many positive outcomes including the result of the Saskatoon adventure, but about a week later I got accepted to law school at Western. My life would have taken a completely different turn if I had decided to become a lawyer. Better, I don’t know, but certainly different. Sometimes I like to imagine the parallel universe life of the person who took advantage of that law school offer, but mostly I live in the present of the life I did choose which is pretty darn good. And as you move through life, remember the immortal words of Yogi Berra: “if you come to a fork in the road, take it”.

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