Happy New Year! Many of us will spend some time reflecting on the past year, reliving mistakes and accomplishments. And we will also begin to look forward to the New Year and promise ourselves we won’t make the same mistakes as last year and begin to align our goals for the coming year. This is an excerpt from a speech given to a graduating class by Baz Luhrmann in 1999. He describes it as “my own meandering experience” and I thought it might be appropriate food for thought as we make our transition to a new year.
“If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But 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. Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.
Do one thing every day that scares you. Sing. Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, and don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours. Floss. Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements. Stretch. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives; some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.
Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone. Don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either–your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own. Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.
Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly. Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few, you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.
Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders. Respect your elders. Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth. But trust me on the sunscreen…”