Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young…

1 Jan

I’ve always loved the Baz Luhrmann Sunscreen tune, cheesy as it is, and it’s become a something of a NYE anthem for me over the last decade. It started as a column by Mary Schmich in The Chicago Tribune, then got set to music by the director Baz Luhrmann (Romeo & Juliet, Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge).  I like it so much I’ve renamed my blog after it!

Urban legend had it that this was a commencement speech at MIT given by Kurt Vonnegut. Not actually true, but I love the story. I can so picture this coming out of Vonnegut’s mouth. When asked about it he gave the lovely quote: “What she wrote was funny and wise and charming, so I would have been proud had the words been mine.” Especially poignant given his death this year. Another genius down.

Get hold of the song if you’ve not heard it (search “Baz Luhrmann Sunscreen). It’s so much better to music: full version is a shade over seven minutes.

Some choice lines below:

  • Do one thing every day that scares you.
  • The race is long, but in the end it’s only with yourself.
  • Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this tell me how.
  • Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

__Baz Luhrmann Presents: Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)__

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’97… wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be IT.

The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

You are NOT as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.



Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.



Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.



Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself, either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.



Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Thanks to for the formatting!


2 Responses to “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young…”

  1. josselyn January 6, 2008 at 10:39 pm #


    I love that Baz Lurhmann song.. It goes on everyone of our X-mas CD’s. My brother & sister and cousin’s all pick out a theme song for the year.. and that one is always the last song we wrap up with on the CD!!!

    And corny as it sounds.. i totally try to do somethings said there..
    –live in nyc.. but leave before it makes you hard– i totally did that.. and my brother is moving to no. cal this month.. lol.

    I don’t know many people that love that song.. im sooo glad you do!

    😉 jossy

  2. Grand Master Thump January 22, 2008 at 2:45 pm #

    Many truths mate, nice. What is up with all quiet for ages and then the frickin essay….. hmmm and nothing since then, a new year’s resolution fallen by the wayside already :-).

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