Best advice on life, ever

May 29, 2011

I loved this Chicago Tribune column from the moment I first saw it. Which was a long time ago. The advice still holds.

So, what would your advice to the young be? Feel free to add yours in Comments.

Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young

Mary Schmich

June 1, 1997


Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out, some world-weary pundit eager to pontificate on life to young people who’d rather be Rollerblading. Most of us, alas, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but there’s no reason we can’t entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for Graduates.

I encourage anyone over 26 to try this and thank you for indulging my attempt.Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


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. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re 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. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune

And your advice would be…..?

2 comments on “Best advice on life, ever
  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Diva,

    I would say this much.

    Dear Students,

    You were loved a heck of a lot more than you will ever know, ever felt and ever gave thanks for. Your parents, teachers and all the other people you think hate you,don’t like you or are mad at you were most likely not. Yeah sometimes you got in trouble and I know YOU know why…it really wasn’t that “my parents are jerks, my teachers hates me, my friends are idiots.”

    You are far more beautiful and handsome than you ever knew. You were mostly polite and well mannered except the occasional nuclear melt down and well we all have days like that. Your apologizes were always accepted. So what if that one zit, your funky hair, your snaggle tooth smile made you feel you were less than, to me it is what gave you character.

    And if you were one of the pretty girls and handsome boys of the school you too are so much more than what is on the outside of you. You too have pain and sorrows that no one else believes that you have. Your parents get divorced, you are a foster child, you have hard break ups with boyfriends and girlfriends. You keep up the facade because it works for you but those who care about you know you are a real person. Along with the Emo, Goth, Nerds and other various sundry student bodies you are way more like them than you are not. There is a little bit of every group in us at one time or another. Oh and by the way, these people do not go away. You will work with them and eventually befriend them in college and in life and oddly enough they may become your very best friends.

    One day what you are like on the outside, what you are wearing and how much it costs will no longer be important. When you are at a friends funeral,when you are taking care of your children or your parents none of that will matter. Oh and by the way…it really doesn’t matter right now either. No one remembers what you wore or what you owned when you are gone.

    You have a second chance to do things right just go out and do it. Everything YOU learned is YOUR lesson and I know you got it. Oh yeah, you will make the same mistakes over and over and over until you get it right everyone does…do not believe someone who says it is not so. This is life and welcome to it.

    Oh by the way…have the best DAMN TIME OF YOUR LIFE.

    Ms. G.

  2. Ms. G, you are heaven-sent. xox

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