On June 1, 1997, the Chicago Tribune published columnist Mary Schmich’s fantastic opening speech titled “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Wasted on Youth.” In the article, she lamented that “inside every adult is a graduation speaker who’s dying to come out,” but most of us, “will never be asked to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and robes”.
Next is her attempt to share the knowledge she gained with the graduating “class of 97”. In the column, she shares advice she’s sure of – “wear sunscreen” – and a litany of wisdom that, she admits, “has no more reliable basis than my own meandering experience.”
Among Schmich’s observations are that we should stay close to our siblings, enjoy our youth, and never be reckless with the hearts of others.
The title of her piece suggests that she would never be embraced by her target audience. But by a strange twist of fate, it would become a pop culture phenomenon that, by the late 90s, was a staple of youth culture.
Shortly after the column was published, Australian director Baz Luhrmann was working alongside Anton Monsted and Josh Abrahams on a remix of Rozalla’s 1991 song “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)”. The song had appeared in Luhrmann’s film “William Shakespeare’s Romeo”. + Juliet. During the sessions, Monsted received an email with Schmich’s column, but it was attributed to writer Kurt Vonnegut.
In 1997, there was no social media, so things went viral through a new technology called email.
The team thought a spoken version of the speech would go well on the song and contacted Vonnegut for approval. But after doing some research on the internet at first, they found out that it was written by Schmich. Australian voice-over artist Lee Perry was given the task of doing the spoken vocals and his deadpan delivery would become iconic.
The original release opened with the line “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of ’97” but it was changed to “’99” on later releases. The song would go on to become a major global hit and imbue a generation with simple yet profound advice on how to live life.
Twenty-five years later, many lines of the song are still etched in the minds of countless people.
Although Schmich’s lyrics were powerful, when set to music and streamed on MTV, VH1 and radio, they were hard to forget. The song also has an emotional weight and suspicious sincerity that is fascinating. Some of the song’s greatest lines, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” “Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts,” and “The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself”, have come to be embedded in the culture.
At the start of her column, Schmich admits that her advice — aside from the bit about sunscreen — is purely anecdotal, but she was on to more than she knew. Research has backed many of his tips and proves they are worth following.
“Do one thing that scares you every day.”
Research shows that the best opportunity for personal growth is to step out of your comfort zone. Moreover, when exposed to our fears, we are most likely to overcome them.
“Exposure is hands down the most effective way to manage phobias, anxiety disorders, and everyday fears of all kinds,” says neuroscientist Philippe Goldin. “Just repeatedly exposing ourselves to the thing we’re afraid of – ideally in a positive way – gradually reduces the physiological fear response until it goes away, or at least is manageable.”
Moreover, when we stay too long in our comfort zone, we are prone to boredom and stagnation. According to positive psychology, what lies outside of our comfort zone is an incredible place called the growth zone.
“Don’t waste your time with jealousy.”
Twenty-five years later, Schmich’s words mean more than ever. Because, as Moya Sarner wrote in The Guardian, we “live in the age of envy. Craving for a career, craving for cooking, craving for children, craving for food, craving for arms, craving for vacations.
Ethan Kross, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, adds that we are constantly bombarded by “photoshopped lives, and it has an impact on us that we have never experienced in the history of our species. And it’s not particularly pleasant.
Overcoming jealousy is less about ignoring what others have and more about appreciating what is ours. Lindsay Holmes, HuffPost’s wellness and travel editor, says people who aren’t jealous “take stock of their blessings,” “don’t seek others’ approval,” or “compare themselves to others.” “.
They also probably spend a lot of time off Instagram.
“Remember the compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed, tell me how.
Negativity bias is a real problem. We always remember insults more vividly than compliments because the human mind evolved to look for potential danger and remember trauma to keep us safe. It’s great in practice but terrible when reading the comments section on Facebook.
Schmich admits she has a problem with this because it’s embedded in human psychology. Hopefully over the past 25 years some of us have learned to do it right and ignore the haters.
“Don’t read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
Since Schmich’s column was first published, there have been countless studies on how unrealistic beauty standards affect women and yes, they “make you feel ugly.”
Dr Laura Choate wrote in Psychology Today that these impossible beauty standards make girls think they should focus on the “perfect physique” and “believe that something is wrong with them if they are unable to achieve that goal”.
Body image issues are linked to a host of issues, including low self-esteem, depression, binge dieting and eating disorders.
“Be kind to your siblings. They are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
A study published by NPR found that during middle age (Gen X, I’m looking at you) and older, indicators of well-being — mood, health, morale, stress, depression, loneliness, life satisfaction — are linked how you think about your siblings.
“You too will grow old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders.
If you remember when “The Sunscreen Song” was a hit in the late 90s, you probably have a warm feeling of nostalgia for that time. But as Schmich points out, we always look at the past through rose-colored glasses. Psychologists call it ‘pink hindsight’ and it’s why some people think America should be ‘great’ again or that the 90s was the best decade ever.
The 90s might have been the greatest decade ever, but it must have been a pretty cool time if a massive pop hit was just someone sharing practical life advice young people should pay attention to and, down and behold, they have done it.
Oh yes, summer is coming. Don’t forget to put on sunscreen.
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