Counterpoint: Don’t make your bed

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An open letter to the University of Minnesota’s incoming freshman class

Students, allow me to welcome you to the University of Minnesota, to adulthood, and to the first day of the rest of your wretched lives.

By now, many of you will have seen a viral video making the rounds on Facebook, featuring a college commencement speech by Admiral William McRaven, a retired naval officer. McRaven is far more accomplished than I am, and a better public speaker. He has an awesome name, he’s 30 years older than me but looks 10 years younger. Plus, he sort of killed Osama bin Laden. 

But believe me when I say he is dead fucking wrong with this claptrap about making your bed.

McRaven tells his audience that if they “want to change the world,” they should start by making the bed, first thing each morning. This one simple act, he says, will start their day with a sense of accomplishment, and will pave the way for more success.

“By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.” That’s what McRaven says. Know what I say? Don’t bother.

Graduation speakers have been encouraging ambitious young people to get out there and change the world forever. And the world has changed. It sucks. 

To Admiral McRaven’s credit, back in 2014 when he gave his speech, the world was a different place. A more hopeful one. Our president was respected. People occasionally seemed interested in saving the planet. Prince was alive. So were, like, 16 characters who got killed off from Game of Thrones. There were fewer Kardashians.

And now? A third of Americans are hooked on opiates, and the other two thirds are hooked on The Big Bang Theory, which is ironic, because most of them don’t believe in the actual Big Bang Theory.

By the time you graduate, most of you kids will be, what, $50,000 in debt? That’s how we do education in America: Before you make money, you have to borrow a bunch. Not that you kids are ever going to make much money. By the time you graduate, there will only be three jobs in America: Insurance claims adjuster, Mexican border wall cleaner, and working for Google as the secretary for a robot. 

And every single dollar you make will be spent paying what it costs to rent a place in Minneapolis. Can I interest you in paying $1,400 a month to live in a converted former fireplace? Does that sound like a place you’d like to wake up and make the bed? 

Here in college, you will have the chance to learn all kinds of historical facts and scientific figures. Skip that stuff. The more you know, the more depressed you’ll get. Besides, no one cares about facts anymore. Feelings, hunches, opinions: Those are what’s important. Mostly the ones about fantasy football draft picks. 

Here, watch. Here are some facts. There’s an iceberg the size of Delaware that just broke off Antarctica, we get hit with a once-in-a-lifetime storm every summer, and North Korea has a bomb the size of a sandwich that could capsize Hawaii. Feel better?

And into this morass, we are led by a trust fund baby who has decided that it’s the banks and insurance companies who need protection from us, that his daughter is a diplomat, and that freedom means hunting endangered species with grenade-throwing drones.

This is the part where I’m supposed to give you some rousing message about how in these challenging times, America and the world need people like you to rise to the challenge, to get out there and change the world. But let’s be realistic. 

We’re not rising to any challenges, and we seem to be making things worse. Let’s just acknowledge that and start lowering our expectations. 

If you manage to move around your house without walking into walls because you’re watching a cat video on your phone, think of that as a success. 

Consider getting good at video games; I hear you can make money that way now. You can at least safely pass the time without venturing out into the street and risking getting run over by an actual fucking Nazi. 

Did I forget to mention that part? The Nazis are back. So is measles. 

And so I say to you, the graduating class of 2021, you should not only not start every morning by making your bed. You should try not to start your morning at all. Give up! Take selfies! See if there’s still some ice cream in the freezer. Tweet something. 

The world is a terrible, terrifying place. I think it’s time we admit that. Don’t make the bed. Get back in it. Actually, I think you can just order ice cream online.

More from Mike Mullen:

Does this look like a crime to you?

A letter from John C. Calhoun to Minneapolis, about this lake of yours

In Stan Hubbard, the University of Minnesota journalism school renames itself for a Trump donor

 


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