Tales From A Hungry Life

June 19, 2013

My Commencement Speech

by Maria Schulz

cap and gowns in air

That’s right: it’s that time of year when our top citizens from around the world put on silly looking academic gowns and mortarboards, and dispense wisdom to gaggles of young people looking for some nugget of truth they can hold onto.


In the past few weeks, everyone from Barack Obama to Oprah Winfrey has been a commencement speaker. Oprah told the young’uns at Harvard: “I want you to remember this: there is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”


I realize that Oprah could buy and sell me many times over, but I still disagree with her. There is such a thing as failure. Don’t run away from it…embrace it! Put it to work for you. Chances are good you’ll have it around for the better part of your early career, so why not make friends with it?

It’s time someone told these fine young people the truth. Failure is necessary! Sure, it’s no fun, but that’s life. I know how hard it must be for them to go from being career students to adults with careers now that they’ve been freed from their various academic institutions.

That’s why I’d really like to give a commencement speech to them. Personally, I can’t even remember who gave the commencement speeches at my graduation ceremonies, so why couldn’t I do it? Of course no one will know who I am, but I had no idea who the people were telling me how to succeed back when I went. I think I can do just as memorable a job as they did.

As such, I’ve been waiting breathlessly by my mailbox for my invitation, but so far, the only thing I’ve gotten is a postcard from my Town Supervisor (he likes to remind me how great he is) and a few bills.

But never fear! I’ve really been thinking about this, and so I am ready to share my commencement speech with you (poor) souls. So here goes.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen: lend me your ears!

friends, romans, countrymen

Okay, so there’s really no reason to start my speech that way except that my 11th grade speech teacher made me memorize it. It’s the perfect example of how useful 99% of everything you ever learn is going to be for you. However, I’ve been dying to find some use for it, and so here we are.

The next thing I have to tell you is this: forget about the sunscreen. Remember that graduation speech that shared deep wisdom AND told you not to forget the sunscreen? Well, that was just crazy talk. You are too young and baby-faced as it is. Skip the sunscreen! Next, stop sleeping and look as harried and miserable as you can at all times.

Congratulations! You are now ready to join the ranks of corporate America!

Now, think carefully about your resume. It is very important to accurately describe your past jobs and skills so a potential employer can clearly see what a catch you are and give you an interview, job, and start on that future everyone’s been talking about.

However, if at any point you decide to write a descriptive paragraph that says something along the lines of, “Worked alongside lions in the Serengeti,” HIT THE DELETE KEY.

Unless, of course, the job description you’re applying for says: Wanted: Lion Companion/Co-Worker.

Should you decide to leave that little gem in there, make sure you arrive at the interview with a shovel, since they may have a few tasks already lined up for you. Also, keep a written recommendation from your past employer, Tony the Tiger, to hand out whenever asked.

Now that your resume is as accurate and polished as can be, it’s time to start job hunting!


If you find a job posting that says:

WANTED: Well-educated, talented and discreet individual with book smarts AND street smarts needed to work alongside lions. We welcome all Liberal Arts majors and are ready to train someone who is willing and able to juggle many diverse tasks with a smile and a can-do attitude. This is your chance to shine as a creative force in a supportive environment where the emphasis is on YOU. Please respond ASAP.

You should translate this immediately to:

WANTED: Moron who thinks they’re smarter than everyone else in the office, even though the lifers have been here 25 years while the newbie has only been here 10 minutes. If you got an “A+” in Shakespearean Literature, we don’t want to hear about it. No one, and WE MEAN NO ONE, is going to hire you with that English/Sociology/Film Studies degree, so you should be thrilled if we hire you at a wage that means you’ll have to live in your parents’ basement forever. We need someone with a really big shovel, and we hear you worked with lions. Put a smile on your face and keep your mouth SHUT. Never tell anyone where the bodies are! The emphasis here is most definitely NOT ON YOU. Please respond ASAP.

Just in case someone actually responds to your resume, you must prepare yourself to handle the telephone interview. Many HR professionals and supervisors have grown fond of screening applicants with this method, since it is an efficient way to gauge the professionalism of the potential employee. That, and it is perhaps the quickest, easiest, and safest way to identify those applicants who are at least terminally stupid, or at worst, total psychopaths.

old fashioned pay phone

When your phone rings, DO NOT:

  • Look at your cell phone and wonder what that “ringing” noise is
  • Check your text messages because, like, cool peeps would never, ever use the telephone
  • Turn off your phone’s alarm setting because you think it’s just ringing since you programmed it to wake you from your next nap

By all means, DO:

  • Answer your phone
  • Smile when you talk, so the interviewer gets a sense of your charming personality
  • STOP smiling when the interviewer asks you, “do you think this is some kind of joke?”

Finally, your big day has arrived! You’ve gone on 15 interviews, done 11 copy tests, completed 9 Power Point presentations, and done 7 Excel Spreadsheets for the underlings who hope you get hired, so they have someone lower on the totem pole then them. You know how the entire office likes their coffee and how much their dry cleaning bills come out to every week.

Yes, that’s right: you’re an Intern!

After a grueling 3 months as the office lackey, you expect to get a decent sized office/cubicle/or at least desk of your own, a wage you can live on, and some healthcare benefits. But instead, they pat you on the back and walk you to another door that leads to a courtyard – with no reentry.

You should immediately:

  • Have your mother call the HR department and demand to know when your official start date is
  • Show up for work the following Monday and have some unsuspecting HR flunky put you on the payroll
  • Scale the roof, shimmy down the gutters and go back in through the last interviewers’ window because you finally thought up another question you could ask that might get you the full time job
  • Call the HR director at home to ask what your salary comes to, including perks and benefits.

Above all else, NEVER, EVER GIVE UP HOPE. Hope is the HR person’s daughter. As long as you’ve got her, you still have a small chance that they might hire you.


If, by some miracle, you actually land a job, try to remember:

  • Your parents cannot “set you up” with a pre-paid meal plan at the office cafeteria
  • Coming into work still drunk and working on your boss’s TOP PRIORITY REPORT for his boss is probably not a good idea
  • Treat your co-workers like members of your fraternity. By that, I mean as people you value, admire and esteem. DO NOT pants them and leave them half naked in the red light district at midnight after making them drink a keg of beer. They will not thank you later for the possible case of alcohol poisoning.
  • Listen to your parents. Yes, I know you think they are idiots, but chances are they still know more than you do. If they tell you to walk away from a job that offers no pay or benefits BUT lets you come to the office in flip flops, pay attention! You can’t run in flip flops, and you should run far, far away.
  • With any luck at all, you’ll manage to keep your job for years to come, or at least until something better comes along.

Now, I’ve told you a lot of important tidbits of information that could help you succeed in your future endeavors. Just remember: the world needs people like you! Now it’s your job to find out why.

But most of all, whatever you do…ditch the sunscreen.



When I think of college and those really sad, broke days when I just started working, I think of pizza. Here’s a list of the Top 20 Pizzas on AllRecipes.com


I’m partial to the Goat Cheese & Arugula pizza and the Brooklyn Style pizza (fuhgeddaboutit). Every single one of these pizzas got a 5 star-rating from readers!

And for my friends who are unable to eat gluten, here’s a gluten-free pizza recipe for you that also got 5 stars:

gluten free pizza


So Hungry Lifers…here’s my question to you: if you could give advice to today’s graduates, what would you tell them? Is failure life’s way of moving you in another direction, or life’s way of telling you that you just plain stink? Do you use sunscreen? Please leave a comment and let us know. Thanks!


1 Comment »

  1. Actually I have just started using sunscreen as I noticed my facial skin has crumpled, wrinkled, and started to leave the bony features of my face. But I digress. Most of what anyone does in life is fail. Notice a good baseball average is based on 28% success and 72% failure. Even our human development which starts at success finally goes over the hill into abject failure called death. What makes for happiness is sorrow, if one is happy all the time how does one not become bored. Any success is sweeter after any failures. In Golf, the duffer, who is the ultimate failure only remembers the good shots and that is why the duffer keeps coming back to play the game. But to the graduate be happy because the ultimate failure is the parent who wonders what happened to that cute little baby that needed them and gooed with happiness when that baby was held and fed and changed and dressed. But the ultimate success is the person who is suddenly a man or woman standing on that graduation stage and is the only person the parents wanted them to be: their child, so beautiful, big and strong, ready (hopefully) to challenge and defeat the evils of this world.

    Comment by Bglou — June 19, 2013 @ 9:35 am | Reply

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