pexels-photo-952428.jpegMost people reading this will be familiar with the song version of this essay written by Mary Schmich – known as ‘The Sunscreen Song’. Baz Luhrmann, an Australian film director, got Mary Schmich’s permission to release this as a spoken song – surprise! It was not written by Baz Luhrmann… The piece was originally published in 1997, although Baz Luhrmann speaks to “the class of ‘99”. For more detail on the history, Wikipedia provides a full account.

I remember hearing this song for the first time. I was probably 13 or 14 years old and it had the same immediate impact on me as it has when I listen to it now. The only difference is that I tend to understand it better as I get older. The words are as relevant 21 years after they were published as they were back then. Amazing. That is why this blog will focus on those words and none of my own. I contemplated sharing my feelings and viewpoint on certain points in this song, but I believe none of that will do it justice, only the original words will. Take a few minutes to absorb this powerful message.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99
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
Oh 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 bubble-gum
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 the 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
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 the 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 and 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 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

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