Portrait of group of happy students in casual outfit with books while standing on background of university

Br(u)no: Always Have Something Interesting To Say

Photo credit: Freepik / For illustrative purposes.

To the graduating class of 2020:

Congratulations! You’ve completed more than a dozen years of school. You’ve grown physically, psychologically, socially, emotionally and (possibly) even sexually. You’re practically an adult.

You’ve made friends, maybe even fallen in love. You’ve shared a lot of laughs and made a lot of memories. You’ve done a ton of work and taken a lot of tests.

Believe it or not, many people consider their high school years to be the best their lives. Don’t worry, though, there are many bright spots ahead.

Your graduation year — the Class of 2020 — has definitely been unique. Your final semester was mostly during a quarantine period to limit the spread of a still uncontrolled novel coronavirus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Your final classes were online. You visited with your friends via technology. You didn’t even get a real grade for your final months at school.  

And, you didn’t get to dress up and beg strangers for money as part of the tradition known as poslední zvonění (in English: the last bell).

Luckily, the quarantine was largely lifted just in time for you to take the oral maturita exam, where you proved, by answering randomly selected questions, that you had learned enough in order to graduate to the next part of your life.

The stress is over. Serenity now.

Take a moment and think back. Remember all of those days when you didn’t want to get out of bed? Remember that paper you didn’t want to write? Remember those authority figures who constantly told you things to do?

Well, actually, those things will change only slightly.

As you may recall from your English class: homework, housework and general work are all uncountable — they never stop.

* * *

I graduated from high school exactly 30 years ago. I don’t know everything, but I have lived on two different continents, established four different careers, gambled away entire paychecks and made my share of mistakes.

I know a few things that might be useful for you to consider, especially since you are entering a world that is anything but welcoming. Take your pick of negatives: A deadly pandemic that has no vaccine. The uncertainty of shaking hands and being in a crowd. A tanking global economy. Systemic social inequality. International civil unrest. Global warming. The weakening of liberal democratic geopolitics. Doubt about facts. Distrust of the media. Privacy concerns. And on and on. 

In any case, the world awaits. Here are some specific tips:

• Stay in school. Go to university because it is basically free and you can actually have freedom. Stay there as long as possible.

• Read everything you can — newspapers, magazines, books, signs — and never stop reading.

• Doubt everything you see on the internet. Always find another source in order to make an informed decision about the veracity.

• “Wanna” and “gonna” are not words.

• Don’t do anything stupid. Be spontaneous. Be impulsive. But make sure that you know where the line is. If you don’t see the line, pull back.

• Never drink Fernet. It’s disgusting.

• Maintain contact with your family and friends. You never know when you will really need them.

• Keep an open mind.  Life is rarely black and white. Start in the gray middle, look at both sides and then make your decision. And then don’t be afraid to change your opinion.

• Be politically literate. The laws apply to you the same as they apply to senior citizens. Make sure that your voice is heard. At the very least, vote.

• Learn to type quickly.

• Cultivate your memory so that you do not rely upon technology.

• Put things in perspective to enjoy the highs but also ride out the lows.

• Contemplate big thoughts.

• Money is important. It is so important that sometimes you need to deal with unpleasant jobs and people. Get another outlet to let out the frustration, like a punching bag. Try to build up a nest egg so that you have a cushion for the worst.

• Avoid credit cards.

• Go to events. Sometimes parties and group dinners are lame — but maybe you meet someone, hear about a job opening or learn something that can change your life.

• Exercise. Eat right. Get enough sleep. Brush your teeth. Shine your shoes. Iron your clothes.

And, here is one final bit of advice:

The world is always moving forward. If you are not constantly learning, adjusting, adapting, anticipating, improving, then you are standing still. If you stand still too long, the world will get away from you and you will wake up one day wondering what happened to your life.

There is one easy way to keep up: Always have something interesting to say.

If you don’t have an interesting answer to “What’s new?” then you are standing still.

Oh, and know that waking up in the morning gets better after the age of 45, although others may disagree.

To the actual adult audience, what are some other life lessons that you can impart? Please share. 

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