Every once in a while, I’ll admit, I have notions of grandeur where I imagine myself as a … motivational speaker (and I’m not talking about the Matt Foley “LIVING A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER“-type) where I can spend my life traveling the country inspiring the young and downtrodden. Unfortunately, when I pitch the idea to friends and family I’m often demotivated as it turns out that very few people appreciate a figurative punch to the face with the great big, callous fists (double-punch) of Realism and Truth. Apparently everyone would much rather be an Escapist.
But I’ll show you!
Spending my Christmas afternoon walking the country roads that like veins stretch out of my hometown of Montevideo, it was the first time in years that I was free to walk the same convoluted, out-of-the-way route I used to take to school. And as I walked the casts of the sun encouraged me to unzip my coat, take off my hat and turn my mind to what should have been buried under feet of snow months ago: fall. Letting the air feel my lungs, I could have sworn that I was walking to the high school where I would soon see all of my friends and we’d gossip and cuss and I’d continue the (now outgrown) Che Guevara phase. Then I thought of the annoying pep rallies in the auditorium we were forced to attend where we would be lectured about Good Decisions, Faith (!) and Abstinence (!), etc., all things that I casually shrugged off and dismissed as the capitalistic reproductive forces oppressing any hope for a burgeoning class consciousness (you’ve got to start early, folks).
Letting some of the presentations play out in memory, recalling some of the songs their “rock bands” would play to reinforce the point (because nothing seals the Don’t Do Meth deal like Evanescence’s “Wake Me Up Inside”), I asked myself, “If I was out there, what would I have told myself?”
And I had an answer …
Aged and hopefully distinguished, I would strip the mic from the stand and, standing to the podium’s side, lean an elbow across the top to demonstrate that I’m too cool for podiums. Flashing a smile, I’d begin by establishing my ethos of cool by distancing myself from the uncool faculty and administration by sympathizing with the natural urge to dismiss cliches: “Now, I know that you’re all used to hearing the same old cliches. I’m sure many of you are studying your phones, looking at the clock and thinking that I’ll be just like everyone else you’ve been dragged out to listen to. Well guess what: I’m not like them because I know that sometimes Parents Just Don’t Understand.”
“… Now listen, I know you’ve heard it before, but I just want to let you know that even though things can seem tough, even though there will be those days where you just feel like giving up, let me tell you that you owe it to yourself to stand back up every time you are knocked down. Kids, you owe it to yourselves to make sure that when you walk out of these doors years from now with your diploma – and for some of you it’ll be this year – you owe it to yourselves to make sure that you aim for the moon.”
Kids fucking love astronomy.
“Yeah, I said it,” I’ll say before I say it again. “Aim for the moon, my friends, for even if you miss you won’t have to confront your shame as you will likely die alone in the dark, empty vacuum of space, your corpse being the first of the species to sail through the ether for all time until there’s a collision far outside of our solar system. Given, this is assuming that you’ve launched yourself at fast enough speeds to escape the gravitational pull of the solar system, but if you’re going those speeds you’ll probably be dead even if you hit the moon.”
Because I’ve taken communications classes, I’d let it sink it. You know, let the kids really think about it.
“If you’re lucky, of course, this won’t be your fate,” I’ll continue, “as there does exist the chance that by passing close enough the gravitational pull of the moon could slingshot you out of its orbit and back toward earth where you would burn up in the atmosphere.” And then like a rhetorical M. Night Shyamalan I would pull out a twist – “On the event that this happens though you will appear to be a shooting star to the eyes of the passerby and your legacy will be … wishes, which is pretty poetic if you think about it.”
Let the imagery sink it. Hopefully by this time Space Shuttle Columbia will be a distant memory. Even if it’s not all of the poetry-writin’-but-not-readin’ kids will still think it’s deep – you know, means something.
“So think about it, even though people wish for a menagerie of ridiculous nad absurd things your disintegrating carnal form (and let’s be honest: only form) will bring hope and inspiration to every Tom, Dick and Sally watching the night sky on the day you decided to strap that rocket between your legs. They will wish upon you. Dick will hope to get some, Sally will hope the pregnancy test is wrong and Tom will hope that he doesn’t have to be the third wheel forever.”
By subtly alluding to sexual intercourse I will get serious “cred” with the kids. With this “cred” I can then drive the message home (after I clarify something of course).
“But don’t be too poetic with this situation: their watching your death would only be a coincidence and would have no direct effect on their wishes. I mean, there may be the increased confidence bit that comes with feeling like there’s a supernatural force working with you but that is nothing similar to an actual supernatural force. The truth is that we’ve evolved certain biological predispositions that direct us toward those stupid things, but we just need to get over it.”
Where was I?
“So what I’m trying to say is that you need to look (realistically) on the bright side of things. Remember, there’s a reason why Denmark is often rated the #1 happiest country in the world – it’s because they have low standards.”
Kids fucking love Denmark.
“Now, as I close, I would like to encourage each of you to establish your own low standards. And when you leave this school with your diploma,” pause and smirk, “remember to aim for the moon.”
Receive huge applause, collect paycheck and then Tweet about how life-changing I am.