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Blogging every day

I saw recently on someone else’s blog that she and a number of others had joined a challenge to post every day.

I suspect that for recalcitrant bloggers (and I know a few who disappoint me with their reticence to write) this challenge is a good thing.  Like the daily journal required for writing classes in high school, it’s an incentive just to sit down and pound something out.

But for us compulsive writers, who spend between 20 minutes and 2 hours on a post, such a challenge is not necessarily a good thing.  Blogging can take me away from chores that badly need doing; dinner sometimes waits until the kids are yelling for food so I can finish proofing what I’ve written, or add links; and despite my love of living in the computer age, where almost anything I need to know (and a hell of a lot that I don’t) is at my fingertips, I find that rather than saving time, computers have become a terrible way to waste it.

So rather than go along with this challenge, I will continue to assess my day, and put off blogging if there is more pressing business at hand.  (While I missed her posts, I admired SuperRaizy no end for taking a few weeks off to just live her life.) 

If you need the challenge, well and good.  Go with it and see where it leads you.  But if you’re like me and sometimes find yourself neglecting your life, it might be something—like all the spam emails from Pfizer, the promises of an online diploma, and the Russian girl looking for a western husband—to ignore.

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Graduation address 2009

Dear Readers,

The following is not a graduation address.

One of the things I’ve discovered in my advancing middle age is the ability to admit that I bit off more than I can chew.  That I was too big for my breeches.  That I’m in way over my head.

As I began about six different graduation addresses, I found I actually had very little to say to a pack of college grads.  I’m not famous, so I’d tread into the intensely boring area of talking about myself a little too much.  I haven’t had much of a career, which hardly makes me the model alumna to give such a speech, at least at the hoity-toity place from which I myself graduated.  I went to several graduation addresses for help.  Jon Stewart’s at William and Mary was snarky and amusing, but very short on substance.  Anna Quindlen’s at Mt. Holyoke was very serious, and charged the young women to stop trying to be perfect all the time.  (I could have said that in one sentence.)  I couldn’t find the one by Gloria Steinem that I heard her deliver ages ago, but I did find Nora Ephron’s from after my time.  She was a hoot, and had good substance, humor, and encouragement for the students.  But she’s 20 years older than I, and has had four careers and three husbands.  I think I have a way to go before I’m really qualified for this.

In short, those kids are just going to have to sink or swim.  They’re stepping into a viper pit as far as the world goes, and that’s a real downer to point out.  The few things I have learned in the two decades since graduation barely fill an index card, and it’s hard to find a good rhetorical framework to fit them into.  My life is a shocking political statement for most college grads who have been steeped in bleeding-heart liberal demagoguery for the past four years, and it would be impossible to avoid offending them (or being pelted with tomatoes, spoiled eggs, or—gulp!—shoes ).  I’d be just as well off reciting what Michael Palin said at the end of The Meaning of Life: “Try to be nice to people.  Avoid eating fat.  Read a good book every now and then.  Try to get some walking in.  And try to live together in peace and harmony with men of all creeds and nations.”  That would certainly save time and effort.

If I were to offer advice, it would end up sounding like Allan Sherman’s song, “Good Advice.” I would say that people are more important than things.  I would say that when you’re traveling, halve the clothes and double the money.  I would say that happiness comes from having spent less time at the office and more time with family.  I would say that if God hadn’t meant for us to enjoy good food, friends, and time off, He wouldn’t have invented Shabbat and then commanded us to observe it.  I would say, go ahead and eat dessert, but only after you’ve stuffed yourself on salad first.  I would say, from the ashes of disaster grown the roses of success.  And I would say, life is not a straight road, so make sure to have power steering.

And, since I believe that changing the world doesn’t only happen by heads of state, CEOs, and Hollywood stars and pop singers who meddle in politics, I would read a few lines from the last chapter of George Eliot’s Middlemarch aloud:

Dorothea herself had no dreams of being praised above other women…  Still, she never repented that she had given up position and fortune to marry Will Ladislaw, and he would have held it the greatest shame as well as sorrow to him if she had repented. They were bound to each other by a love stronger than any impulses which could have marred it. …Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”  I would say, Find your song and sing it.

So nu?  What’d you all come up with?  Anyone who actually wrote something has the Shimshonit Medal of Bravery coming to them.

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Thought (or hoped) I’d forgotten?  Nope.  I’m plugging away at mine, and I hope to see at least one other.  Even if you don’t finish, send me what you have.  I really want to see what you would write.

In the meantime, I plan to make an absolute buffoon of myself and post mine.  It ain’t gonna be great, but since no one is paying me for it, it doesn’t have to be.  And neither does yours.

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It’s graduation season.  How many of us remember any of the graduation speeches given at high school, college, or beyond?  For me, high school was a yawn, college was a drag.  Graduate school was better—Anita Hill.  (Wish I had every word she said on paper to reread.)

Graduates are so giddy from delight at being finished with the long haul of studies, and full of emotion (delight at being through with exams, regret at the cessation of parties and late-night nacho fests, and perhaps fear at the more sobering future staring them in the face), that it’s usually impossible for them to focus on or remember what was said to them on that day.  I remember lining up for my college graduation, being handed a red carnation to drop at the feet of the trustees on my way to get my diploma (a gesture to protest the college’s investment in businesses that dealt with the then-apartheid South African government), and the popping sound as Irene Zuckerman, the last student to receive her diploma, uncorked a bottle of champagne and poured it on her head and the heads of those sitting near her.  And that’s about it.

So here’s a challenge: If you were to write a graduation speech that’s worth listening to and even more importantly, worth remembering, what would you say?  What’s required to keep the attention of kvelling parents, bored faculty, and spacy students?  Where does the correct balance lie between substance and humor?  (Yes, I said “humor.”  Let’s not take ourselves too seriously here.)  How short can you make it and still make you earn your imaginary honorarium?  What do you have to say that would be of use to a bunch of kids about to be unleashed on the “real world”?

Now write one.  Post it on your own blog, or email it to me at hashimshonit@gmail.com and let me post (part or all) of it here.  Pass this challenge on to other people, and post the challenge on your own blog, too.  Let’s get these things written by June 4 (two weeks from now).

Aaaaaaaannnnnnndddddddd, GO!

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