Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Wear Sunscreen And Other Commencement Advice

May 31, 1999

"Wear Sunscreen." Not bad advice coming from columnist Mary Schmich of the Chicago, Tribune and attributed on the Internet as Kurt Vonnegut's commencement speech. Since I have had skin cancer, I can attest to the importance of sunscreen myself. Here’s more of Mary Schmich's advice and some comments of my own.

"Don't." That is the shorthand version of a commencement speech. Don't you wish that was all there was to it? Too bad us older folks can't resist sharing all the "don't's" we've learned hard way. Here’s also a few of my "do's" too.

Always say "thank you" to the people who believed in you and cared for you. A simple "thank you" lets others know you understand their generosity. Without thank you's you are either ignorant or self-centered.

Apologize to your parents for all the grief you have caused them. With maturity and in a few short years, you’ll come to understand what you’re apologizing for.

Mary Schmich says, "Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on."

"Enjoy your body . . . It is the greatest instrument you'll ever own."

I say, don't put harmful substances in your body. It is too intricate and wondrous to disrespect. If you smoke, make a promise to yourself that you'll give it up. Better sooner than later, but someday. Please!

Mary Schmich says, "Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly."

"Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead. Sometimes your behind. The race long and hard and in the end it is only with yourself."

I say if you must compare, do it with those less fortunate. That way you'll understand your blessings. Being deprived is a state of mind.

Mary Schmich says, "Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don' put up with people who are reckless with yours."

I say sexual relations are a bonding force that enriches marriage. Outside of marriage, they are destructive. Choose premarital chastity and absolute fidelity after marriage. Living together before marriage makes for poorer marriages and more divorce. Marriage is built on commitment and trust. And don't be afraid to have children.

"If you want the experience of having responsibility for another human being and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children." -Morrie Schwartz -"Tuesdays with Morrie."

Mary Schmich says, " Don't expect anyone else to support you."

I say spend less than you make. Learn to control your desires. Make compound interest work for instead of against you. Don't be seduced by a culture whose driving mantra is more, more, more. People are more important that things. The rat race is the wrong race.

Mary Schmich says, "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."

I agree. Sometimes it may take years to find your niche in life. Find your purpose. Discover your destiny. Develop your talents. Work hard. Push yourself with greater and greater wisdom, more and more love and charity. Be patient. Some of these things will become clear with time.

The more education you have, the better. The world is going to be divided into those who are plugged in, wired, and connected and those who resist change.

To fail is OK. Success is built on mistakes and misteps. The only true failure is failure to learn from mistakes. Try not to make the same mistake twice.

Don't rationalize your values. Even when the pressure is on. Even when it costs you something dear. Know who you are. Stand for something. Be true to your principles.

If you don't remember anything else, remember this. Know that you are a son or daughter of God and that He loves you, is mindful of you and wants you to be happy. This knowledge will comfort you, sustain you and guide you through the adversities and hard choices of life.

Find out about God, have faith, and seek the truth of this universe. You'll be OK. And sunscreen is a good idea.