[Warning: Bad Words, but hey, we’re talking to artists, aren’t we?]
Most graduation speeches are optimistic, painfully so, because graduation is terrifying. You are moving into another stage of your life. The next, precarious stage. That one that doesn’t end until you have kids. And a house. And life insurance. And cable. The order is up to you. I’d go with cable though. You’re going to need a distraction.
“I don’t need distractions!” you protest. Oh love but you do. You need distractions to keep the darkness at bay, the hour of the night when that voice whispers “What the FUCK did you think you were doing going into this? You could’ve been a lawyer, a teacher. You could’ve been in advertising, up to your waist in Joan Halloways and Don Drapers. But noooooo you went to drama school. You wanted to work on your arttttt. You learned how to be unique, and despite what Mr. Rogers told you, the world hates unique. It makes them nervous. Or perhaps you are just the wrong kind of unique, more Gob from Arrested Development than Jobs from Apple. That would explain why no one will hire you to do what you got your degree in, why all the art you’ve made recently is crap and/or nonexistent, and why you don’t have enough anxiety medication to get you through yet another interview. So now you work at Buffalo Wild Wings. Buffalos don’t even have wings!”
This is when the Food Network comes in handy.
But back to legacy. Back to potential. There’s a lot of talk around here about triumphs. About the festivals, the tours, the Tonys. That happens. It’s marvelous, but I need to address something that never seems to get said in those acceptance speeches, or at these ceremonies:
Some of you won’t get them. Some of you will be the Susan Lucci of the Drama Desks. Some of you won’t be invited. And no matter how much you deny it, you will want to go. Some of you will get pulled into designing video games. And you will love it, regardless of what you imagine your advisor might have said. This is not a big secret. It’s math. There are only so many awards. But here’s the big secret, love: Everyone, everyone, everyone, even Barack “the POTUS” Obama hears that dark voice sometimes, that dark voice that so unreasonably hates Buffalo Wild Wings.
If there’s one piece of advice you should never listen to it’s this little pearl of wisdom that is about as common as poop in a cow field at industry Q&As:
“Don’t go into this business unless it’s the only thing you can do, the thing you have to do.”
Bull FUCKING shit. This is not the only thing you can do. If it was, those assignments would have been a hell of a lot easier to finish. Instead you made food and you composed text messages and you kissed your girlfriend and you took a new freshman to the doctor. Because you’re good at those things too. You’re good at being a person. You’re good at thinking and loving and you are really fucking awesome at Angry Birds or algebra or Pinterest or esoteric philosophy or Stumbling Upon. You contain multitudes.
Do not let your art define you because there will be times when your art is shit, but you are not. Sometimes your art is great and you are being a shit. Watch out for that.
Everyone wants to quit. Everyone thinks they’re a waste of space. If they don’t, they think you’re a waste of space and that makes them more awful than you will ever be. You will wake up some mornings and agree with those assholes, that whoever let you in made a mistake. That you made a mistake. You may have made some. They may have gotten you fired. They may have robbed you of a place to sleep that night. But if you can find a place to lay your head, if you can close your eyes and quiet the wing-hating voice in your head, you will find another morning. There is always another morning. Until there isn’t. And that is pretty much out of our control, especially if we keep watching The Barefoot Contessa.
Please don’t ever sit in your room and lock yourself away because you think you’re not good enough.
You’re good enough. That’s why the voice hates you. Because you can’t see them, but you’ve got wings. *looks out over the throng* You have to help each other see them. Please. Please.
*kisses graduate on the forehead* More Life. The Great Work Begins.
These thoughts are partly based on this TED talk, which I watch on a regular basis when that dark voice gets particularly loud: