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The Midlife Sage: Granny’s Guidelines For Graduates


I’m the commencement speaker next week at the College of Southern Idaho.

I could tell them they are doomed, there aren’t any jobs, the country is on the brink of destruction, they’ll never get out of debt, and they should move into the woods and make macramé hangers to sell at craft fairs. Too harsh?

I grew up in a small town during an easier time. My mother would send me alone to the grocery store, and I would return with fresh bread, local eggs, a roast, and a pie or two.

You can’t do that anymore because there are too many security cameras.

Thousands of graduates and their families will sit through commencement ceremonies this spring, and I hope they glean a few tidbits of wisdom from the speakers who desperately will be searching for eye contact.

It’s difficult for motivational speakers to keep going when they know the audience already has checked out.

So, while you’re all still awake, here are my ten simple suggestions for a good life:

1. Accept the fact that life isn’t fair. You could work hard, excel at your job, and miss your kid’s school programs only to see some pretty woman have an affair with the senior vice president and be given your job. (I write from personal experience.) Or you could get hit by a beer truck or your spouse could run away with a carnival worker or your hillbilly neighbor could get a lucrative reality show on television. Just change your profession and write country/western songs.

2. No one owes you a living. Chances are, you’re not going to win the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes or the million-dollar lottery. And you can’t live with your parents anymore because they want to buy a recreational vehicle and travel around to casinos. Go into the world and make your own way.

3. Take risks. Kids need to be free to stomp in puddles, fall out of trees, catch frogs in a ditch, and ride their bikes with a helmet (just not around traffic). Let them experience true freedom before life gives them a mortgage, kids, in-laws, fifty extra pounds, buffoon bosses, and irritable bowel syndrome.

4. Mansions, fast cars, and luxury vacation don’t guarantee happiness. Many good people are honestly delighted to have a small house with indoor plumbing, a pickup truck that runs, and a favorite camping place. Be like that.

5. Get out of debt. Why work your entire life just to pay interest to a bank? In most cases, that $100 debt on your credit card for that sassy pair of boots will remain long after they have worn out. Pay cash or go bootless.

6. Enjoy relationships. The happiest people are surrounded by family members and friends who accept their faults, celebrate their achievements, and invite them over for barbecues and wine.

7. Avoid crabby people. They will suck out every last ounce of your energy and leave you a withered, bitter shell of wretched humanity. Purge your contact list now before it’s too late.

8. Don’t fight. No explanation needed.

9. Love more. Ditto.

10. Laugh, dance, and sing. Triple ditto.

I purposely avoided any mention of politics or religion because I’d rather smack my head with a hammer than tiptoe through the mine field of political correctness. One last bit of advice: On Mother’s Day, call your mom and thank her for putting up with you. If she is no longer living, call another mother and wish her a happy day. You’ll both feel good.

Read more posts by Elaine Ambrose, award-winning author. Elaine is a blogger for JenningsWire.


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