I am honored to be asked to speak here today, to the Class of 2009. I look out across a sea of eager-eyed, smiling Seniors who are just moments away from becoming “functional members of society.” Some of you will head to college. Some of you will go straight into the workforce. Others will travel. Some will take some time to find themselves. Do what you will. You deserve it. There are some things to remember, though.
Life, as you’ve been told, isn’t fair. That’s true. But not only is it unfair, it’s also cruel, random and dangerous. It does things without rhyme or reason, and it doesn’t stick around to help pick up the pieces. In other words: Prepare to be fucked.
Your fate was determined by the eighth grade. Your teachers and adminstration had a good idea by then how many of you would become income producers and how many would become income takers. They looked at your parents, your class status, and your scholastic performance. They judged you by your friends and your music. They assigned you to neat little boxes and then did little to help you out of them. If you think that is a lie, take a look at them now. That look is discomfort. That look is truth. Come back in three years and get them drunk. They’ll tell you.
Some of your classmates were lost. Some died in auto accidents. Some by their own hands. Those are what’s known in the business as “the lucky ones.” They don’t have a lifetime of misery coming their way. They’ve left us to linger on. You want your future? You want to know how things turn out? You want inspiration? Look around at your fellow classmates, the ones you won’t see again until the ten year reunion. I’ll give you your future.
Coke habits. Unwanted pregnancies. Abortions filled with guilt. Sex filled with rage. Meaningless jobs. Cancer. A college degree that seemed better on paper. A boss you can outperform. A cop who does it because he can. A drunken night of sex that winds up on the Internet. Your parents seeing it. A disease you thought only older people got. Unexplained blood in the toilet. Nine to five nightmare followed by six to eleven drinking. Weight gain that scares you. Weight loss that scares you more. That boy you’ve been dating since the sixth grade -- the one you’re going to marry? Divorce. Men, that girl you fuck and think it won’t come back to haunt you? She lied. Fourteen, but didn’t look it. How does “registered sex offender” fit onto your Burger King application? Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. Body bag. A man who beats you. A woman who leaves you when you should never be left alone. A rape. A homosexual encounter you wanted at the time, but confuses you later. Realizing it all counts for the wrong reasons. Birth control that fails. Endless, spiraling depression. Morons controlling your future. Tyrants controlling your past. A drunk driver who came out of nowhere and didn’t kill you, but wheelchairs just aren’t sexy this year. You driving, knowing you maybe had one too many, but you swear you had control of the car ... until you hit that tree at ninety. Wheelchairs still aren’t sexy, and neither is pissing through a tube. Shattered hearts. Broken bones. Dead souls. Black spirits. The death of hope, and a life best left unlived.
Compared to the future, high school was a blast.
You won’t be rock stars. You won’t write a best-seller. You won’t be giving an Oscar acceptance speech. You’ll be lucky if you get promoted to manager. You’ll be thankful if you can make it just one week without drinking. You’ll never stop smoking. Not because you can’t, but because you don’t care. You pretend these things don’t bother you, but those long looks in the mirror say otherwise. This is what life hands you. That toilet that overflows with all the shit from the neighborhood, your head being forced into it.
There were men in their twenties, it is believed, who broke into a woman’s house. She had a six year old boy at home. They terrorized them. In the end, that mother was forced to perform oral sex on that boy. Those monsters, those random monsters -- did they sit in a similar audience as you do today? I don’t know. What I do know is that not much separates them from you, and you are two steps away from being the victim. When you’re human, this is to be expected. Good people do bad things. Bad people do worse things. Anyone can be caught up in it. You just have to ask yourself how far you will let it go. Now is the time to start asking. Tomorrow is the time to answer.
Your eyes aren’t so eager now. Your smiles have faded. You’ve seen yourself, your fears and (god forbid) your dreams exposed. You feel a little less safe, a little less alive. What should be the happiest time of your life so far has become a snapshot of disaster at 121 miles per hour.
Enjoy the music, the sex, the booze and drugs. Enjoy the friendships, the heartaches. Take comfort in the fact that all the shit you survive makes you stronger. All the disgust that is thrown your way by people too petty to actually confront the lies head on will actually put you above them. Take pride in the fact that the more they try to knock you down, the quicker you’ll get up. Become better than them by becoming less human. More machine.
Less human doesn’t mean you care less. In fact, it means you care more. Most of the humans I know are mouth-breathing sociopaths who care little beyond their aura. The irony of that, however, is that these are the people we are told to be more like. We are not told to admire the truth seekers, the ones who see through the bullshit for what it is. We are told to avoid those people. They are “downers.”
You think those criminals, the ones who forced a mother to fellate her son, spoke the truth? I don’t think they’d know truth if it became a lump in their testicles. I think they only know fear. Humans are good at that. Fear. Lies. Pain.
When I see your faces, your squirming bodies, which are wishing this would end, I see nothing but a sea of misery, but here’s what will get you through the day. It’s something many of you may have learned about ... if you were put into the right box by your teachers. Statistics.
Statistically speaking, some of you are going to make it. You will have a “good life” free of drama and disaster. There will be pain and heartache, but not above the norm. You will die as you lived -- peacefully. There’s a kicker, though.
Most of you will think that it will be you. You believe, because you have to, that you’ll be the one spared. But there are a few of you who know otherwise. I am going to speak to those people.
If you are a truth seeker , you will know -- statistically speaking -- that this picture of happiness ain’t you. I want you to look around. You see all those people who look relieved and like they want to be somewhere else? Those are the ones who aren’t honest with themselves. Those are the ones you have to watch out for, as they will be the criminals. Those are the ones you’ll be forced to care for, as they will be victims. Don’t feel sorry for them, however. They have been warned, just as you have been. In fact, the truth seekers know they’ve been warned their whole lives. Only now they know they have got to pay attention.
Enjoy your graduation party because tomorrow starts a whole new realm of distress. With any luck, some of you may not make it through the night. The real terror? Statistically -- and there’s that concept again -- most of you will.