By Al Schwartz | Bass Lake Poet Laureate and Commencement Speaker for Hire
What is clear to you at this moment-ing
Shall be foggy and murky tomorrow
Your reading and tests and fomenting
Sink in swamps of grief and sorrow
The interest on your debt exponent-ing
Now to repay, no more to borrow.
I wrote that poem last week while I was contemplating the message I wanted to impart to this, the 2016 graduates of Bass Lake University. Well, not really 2016. I understand there are 45 of you. Two thousand sixteen is the year. But I guess you already knew that. Anyway, what is the message of the poem? After four or five or even seven years of college, with tuition and room and board and books and well, drugs and alcohol, to say nothing of concert tickets, road trips and bail, it is very hard to imagine that any of you made it to this point without some sort of financial assistance. The Stafford Loan, the Sallie-May, the Uncle Gotrocks, the bookie at the roadhouse, the Direct Unsubsidized, and the popular Jolly’s Morgue & Donut Loan. No matter who you got your cash from, you’re gonna have to pay it back.
But with what? Money from your first job? Good luck. And I say that with all due respect, because some of you, I see from this list, chose courses of study that do not lend themselves to rapid accumulation of wealth, however interesting or worthy they might have been. You followed your passion, your interests, your abilities. And good for you! Twelve of you will enter the exciting field of convenience store management. Lots of room for advancement there. Three kinds of beef jerky at your fingertips, a lifetime of free coffee in your cups.
Six members of your class bravely chose to focus their efforts on the study of inclines, those unwelcome barriers to coasting, despite the dwindling demand for masters of the rising slope.
The rest of you, this list tells me, majored in non-service industry business management, which is surprising since BLU offers no degree in non-service industry business management. Perhaps this is the loophole you’ll deploy when scrambling for paths to loan deferment.
Anywho, no matter how you spent your time or your student loan money while in college, the next stanza of your lives will bring many enticements, each vying for your attention. So with this in mind, please allow me to proffer some handy dos and don’ts.
- Do say yes when a friend or relative offers anything at all.
- Don’t underestimate the nutritional value of complimentary chips & salsa.
- Do sleep on clean sheets.
- Don’t insult people who are larger and angrier than you.
- Do take advantage of sick days, especially when you are well.
- Don’t let illness deter you from going to work in valiant displays of team spirit.
- Do obey speed limits.
- Don’t tell anyone when you don’t.
- Do brag about lofty, unachievable goals as though they are the reason for your existence.
- Don’t volunteer for anything that lasts longer than 45 minutes.
- Do play music and dance like your downstairs neighbors aren’t home.
- Don’t answer the door if they are.
- Do linger at Chinese buffets until you are asked to leave.
- Don’t eat the mayonnaise-based seafood casseroles.
- Do pay your utility bills on time.
- And finally, don’t get cable. That’s what bars are for.
Good luck to the 2016 graduating Bass Lake University Beaver!