June 15, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: Get out of town!
By†Jeff Rapsis

I donít expect to ever serve as a commencement speaker at any kind of graduation ceremony, with the possible exception of certain area kindergartens who need to frighten their students in some way.

But here it is, graduation time. And as someone who survived the local school system, left town, and then returned, I do have a few thoughts on the question that many local graduates are asking: What happens next?

What happens next is that you now get a chance to make something of your life. To increase the chances of achieving that, hereís a to-do list of steps to take. To make it interesting, I put in one fake one. Can you spot it?

Get out of town: Nashuaís a nice place to grow up. But even if you plan to live here forever, itís important to get away for a time and get some perspective. Itís a big world. See it, by any means possible. Join the military if necessary. Travel. You will understand yourself, your life, and your hometown much better.

Do what you love: Within reason, of course. If youíre the lucky person who clearly knows what you enjoy doing, great. If not, make an effort to find out. Either way, then find a way to make a living at it. Itís the key to long-term day-to-day happiness when, God forbid, youíre slogging through your 30s or 40s.

Donít keep score with money: These days, we tend to equate money with a well-lived life. If thatís for you, fine. But donít judge others by that standard. Only in America is wisdom equated with a dollar sign; the world over, poverty is regarded as a condition of spiritual enlightenment and intellectual accomplishment. Judge people by their bank book, and you cut yourself off from a big part of life.

Donít hesitate about having kids: My observation is that thereís never a good time to have children, so donít stress about it. If youíre going to have them, just do it. And not to be cavalier, but the less you obsess about creating the perfect childhood for your kids, the better off theyíll be in the long run.

Be kind to others: Nothing is quite so miraculous as a good deed done for no reason and without a desire for recognition. Get out of the rut of seeing life as a legislature, where favors are traded on a quid pro quo basis. If your attitude is limited to ďyou do this for me, and Iíll do that for you,Ē you will lead a narrow, joyless, and unsurprising existence.

Be irresponsible: A life that is well-measured, careful, and prudent in all respects is one that is boring and dull. On occasion, remind yourself that you possess free will (you do, donít you?) by engaging in something totally spontaneous and without justification. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in his novel Catís Cradle, ďPeculiar traveling suggestions are dancing lessons from God.Ē

Turn off the television: Participate in real life instead. Humanity was not meant for a push-button mass entertainment existence. We are social creatures. Television is a wonderful medium, but itís no substitute for real human contact.

Send lots of money to me: You donít need it, and itís only going to corrupt you. Please put it in a sealed envelope and send it to me c/o this newspaper. Checks accepted; please make payable to Jeffrey A. Rapsis Commencement Speakers Reimbursement Fund.


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