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Eric Bergeson: Graduates: Enjoy life, it goes by fast

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Eric Bergeson: Graduates: Enjoy life, it goes by fast
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The latest crop of fresh-faced graduates is about to march up for their diplomas. I include college graduates in that crowd because I no longer can tell the difference between high school and college students.

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It is a phrase used only by closed-minded bigots, but I’ll use it anyway: They all look the same!

Last year, I asked a kid what grade he was in, only to have him inform me he is in his third year as a software engineer with Microsoft. He told me in very kind way, as if I had dementia.

A neighbor kid who I am sure I saw toddle across the lawn in diapers last summer passed me doing 80 on the way to town in his Dad’s pickup last week.

That should be illegal. Not doing 80 mph, that’s already illegal. It’s growing up so much in one year that should not be allowed.

Our local newspaper prints profiles of graduates from the local high school. In each profile, the grizzled seniors are asked what profound wisdom they would like to pass on to naive underclassmen.

“Enjoy your senior year, it goes by so fast,” most of them say.

Really? You think time is going fast for you now? Wait until you turn around and realize your classmates have become gray, fat and old! Wait until you realize that you, too, are gray, fat and old!

Turn around once more and realize that those who were in kindergarten during your glorious senior year are also now gray, fat and old.

That’s when you realize time goes fast. The march of human decline always outpaces the mind’s ability to adjust to the decay.

People do exist who improve with age, that is true. Some get fit. Others find happiness, and it shows. Perhaps the third marriage was the charm, or the new career.

However, I now suspect that people don’t actually improve, they just cling to a rock for a while as their peers get washed further downstream towards that great ocean where we’ll all end up.

Some of us will grab a rock for a few years in our fifties and stay the same, while those around us decline. Others will wait until they’re 82, and then not change a bit until they’re 94.

Others live hard early and become well-preserved in a leathery, mummy-like state. They look 60 now and they’ll still look 60 in thirty years when they actually turn 60. And they’ll look the same when they’re 80.

Everybody wonders how they could still be alive. You ask them, they’ll light up a cigarette, take a long pull, look off in the distance and say, “You just can’t let stuff get to you.”

And they’re probably right.

There was a time when I used this column to preach my accumulated wisdom to graduates.

My advice was predictable: Don’t abuse credit cards. Skip the first marriage. Don’t waste money on college until you have a clue what you want to do. Travel. Read. Meet new people.

Be nice to dogs and children. Smile at old people. Don’t belch in public. Cut your hair. Don’t put a tattoo on your face. Don’t stretch your earlobes out because they will stay that way, and they will droop more and more as you age, making you look stupider and stupider instead of wiser and wiser.

Learn a trade like welding to go along with your degree in Medieval French Literature. Something you learn has to pay the bills.

Get your nose out of your phone, please. Look at me when I talk to you, please. Pull up your pants over your underwear, please. Turn down the tunes so you don’t wreck your ears and ours, please. Conceal your ample muffin top, please.

Realize the difference between a senior photo and a Victoria’s Secret spread. Realize that drunken photos on Facebook are in the public domain.

Realize that these days, most people with master’s degrees make lattes for a living.

Yes, I am usually full of advice.

However, I am now too old and demented to give advice to the young. If I can’t tell the difference between a ninth grader and a software engineer at Microsoft, it is time to quit dispensing advice to anybody, even those who look like children.

So, I will simply paraphrase the advice given by the wise seniors to their ignorant underclassmen:

Enjoy life, it goes by fast.

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