You’ve been asked to speak at your high school alma mater — about the path of life. (Whoa.) Draft the speech.
First up, these are not the best days of your lives, I promise, so there’s no need to go out and shoot yourselves in the belief that this is as good as it gets.
Secondly, earning your living will eat up a huge chunk of your lives, so don’t choose your future on the basis of fame, fortune or other people’s expectations. Unless you’re doing what you love, your chances of loving what you do are minimal and you’ll be doing an awful lot of it. Other people’s admiration might look good now, but it’s cold comfort in the reality of slogging away for fifty years at what feels like a daily endurance test. And leaving your kids a lot of money won’t compensate them for the love and time they didn’t get.
But don’t think you deserve to have fun fun fun handed to you on a plate, either. This whole ‘deserving’ thing is a load of half-baked bollocks thought up by lazy narcissists who’d like us to believe the world owes them a living, although I’ve never heard the reason why. Personal responsibility is not a popular concept in the modern world, but make no mistake: the ubiquitous ‘they’ – the butt of all blame, the fount of all riches – ‘they’ are you. Society is not a bottomless well of free goodies. It is the sum total of us, and if you contribute nothing, with a bit of luck, you’ll get precisely what you deserve: nothing. And here’s another thing worth pondering: fun is like chocolate – most enjoyable when it’s a treat. Overindulgence not only decreases the enjoyment, it will ultimately make you sick.
And finally, life is going to have its ups and downs. Sometimes it will probably seem desperately unfair, and it may well be. That’s its nature. The secret lies in how you deal with it, because This too shall pass is not an empty cliché. Everything does pass, and how you emerge at the other end when time has done its work will colour the next phase of the journey. Adversity can break you or make you stronger. Mistakes can destroy your confidence or give you wisdom. Unhappiness can leave you full of self-pity, or inspire you to look again. You can sink or swim. It’s up to you.
But whatever choices you make about adversity, life, work, priorities, standards, the company you keep or the path you take, remember this above all else: the most precious thing you will ever have is your self-respect. Guard it well.