Neil Offen: Some words for the Class of 2013

May. 05, 2013 @ 06:32 PM

Dear soon-to-be college graduates,
Once again, you have chosen me to be your commencement speaker because of the insight I can offer you and because Stephen Colbert was not available.
I want to thank you for the invitation and also for not checking to see if you have any texts while I’m talking. Although I am grateful to be here, nevertheless I am not going to make it easy on you today, offering simple platitudes that will make you forget, if only briefly, that starting in December you will have to begin paying off your student loans with most of your beer money.
I am, instead, going to offer you more complicated platitudes. I am going to tell you the absolute truth about what to expect out there in the real world where spring break is just that brief moment between when you stop sneezing and when you start wheezing because of all the pollen.
In fact, not only will you not have spring break anymore but you will be lucky to get in an extended weekend in Myrtle Beach. And most likely, it will probably be during motorcycle week and you will have to take relatives with you.
You are, to be sure, entering a world that is harsh and unforgiving and has very few parking spots. You may have to learn to parallel park because perpendicular just won’t cut it in the real world. That parking course would be pass/fail, by the way, and won’t hurt your GPA.
In the real world, you will not get to choose your own schedule or wear pajamas to the office unless you work for Facebook or Google and can buy your own commencement speaker. 
In the real world you won’t have a meal card, and garlic fries and pizza will not be high on the food pyramid.
So, yes, the world is difficult out there, and we haven’t even mentioned that Oreos now come with chocolate cream in the middle and fig Newtons can be raspberry-flavored.
But there are also great opportunities out there waiting for you. That’s why we call today commencement, in addition to the fact that if we called it “the end” you probably wouldn’t have come and would have gone sky diving instead.
Yet this is, in fact, the beginning of the period where you will be on your own, free to do whatever you choose to do as long as you make sure to call your parents every Sunday evening and find out if you’re still on their health insurance.
I hope, as you go forward in your life with this new-found freedom that you will use it for good and not simply as a link you can tweet. The world is waiting for you, so try to remember not to be late because you had to check your phone and your Facebook wall just one last time.
Neil Offen can be reached at theneiloffencolumn@yahoo.com.