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Hashtag: ‘Good’ advice and Sunscreen

June 1, 2011

On this day in 1997, the words that were immortalised by Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” are 14 years old.

The original article appeared in the Chicago Tribune entitled, “Advice, like youth, is probably just wasted on the young”. The author, Mary Schmich set out to write a fictitious graduation speech. “Most of us, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns”. She invited her readership to do the same, 14-years later we take up that mantle and the #sunscreenchallenge was born.

Each blogger spent 1-hour creating a graduation speech. Essentially, it’s the advice that they’d pass onto school leavers today based on their own life experience. If you’ve enjoyed the blog – please RT the post, include the #sunscreenchallenge tag and find other blog posts using this hashtag.

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Others have said how much they deplore giving advice. They reason that making mistakes is invaluable for personal growth, and advising someone against doing something that would have made them stronger in the long run robs them of that growth. My view is a little different.

I think that you should try most things once because, for example, it could be fun/it probably doesn’t taste as bad as it smells/you really like him or her/you may get another chance/etc. I also think that some things shouldn’t be tried because it’s stupid/it’s illegal/it’s going to hurt someone and the pain won’t be worth it/doing it won’t really benefit anyone/you don’t want to/etc. But as well as these two categories there is a third. The things that you will probably never even get a chance to do. I’m unlikely to ever fly a jet plane. I’m never going to be a superhero. I won’t rule the world, or even just one country in it. I hope I’ll never be in prison. There’s no way I can live for a while in the early 20th century, or in the late 30th century, because I suspect that I will never travel in time. Or for that matter in space, at least the space outside of Earth’s atmosphere. But this limitation doesn’t stop me reading about experiences from people who do do these things. Whether real or fictional, other people’s stories take you into their world. Maybe you’ll learn something, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll forget all about it after a few minutes and go off and do something else. But for a small time you are in someone else’s world, seeing it through their eyes, walking in their shoes. If this makes you think, even for a minute, or if it makes you laugh, or smile – even if it’s fleeting, transient, before you’re suddenly back in your own life and getting on with your own things – then it was worth it.

I am a consumer. One of the things I consume is other people’s experiences. That’s why the following is a list of advice, because you know that everything I ask of you is rooted somewhere in my personal experience, and that it tells you a little something about me. And through reading them your world has expanded, just a little, into mine.

Welcome.

#sunscreenchallenge

  • Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Perfection is unlikely, and even if you do achieve it it probably won’t last long. But maybe that’s not the point of Perfect. In striving for it people have come up with a hell of a lot of Good. And they’ve been happy doing it. So I say keep trying, and just because something isn’t Perfect now doesn’t mean it isn’t Good, or that it won’t be that much closer to Perfect the next time you try. In the words of Samuel Beckett, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
  • Don’t be afraid to let yourself fall in love, even if it could hurt you. Love does hurt, everybody knows that.
  • Keep all of your notes from school and university, especially the handwritten ones, if you can. Look back on them one day when you don’t need them anymore. Let yourself be proud of your younger self.
  • Journal parts of your life and never show them to anyone.
  • Don’t let things get weird if they don’t need to be. As somebody once told me, “it’s only weird if you make it weird”. This can apply to many things.
  • Use the internet to communicate more. Email old friends that you don’t see much. Use it to procrastinate just as much, as long as the procrastination makes you laugh.
  • Seek out a new cuisine, restaurant or recipe at least once a fortnight. Share them with your friends.
  • Do the touristy things where you live. See your hometown through the eyes of its visitors. That way when people ask you what it’s like there your reply will be more useful, and more full.
  • Smile at beautiful strangers, even if they don’t smile back.
  • Help random people, be it with directions, lifting a bag for them, getting something off a top shelf or holding a door open. Give them a smile at the same time. They’ll appreciate it and want to pass it on.
  • Buy at least one new piece of clothing every month, and make it a nice one. Get rid of clothes that you never wear anymore. Own at least one piece of clothing that’s pink.
  • Look after your feet. You’ll hate them when they stop working and you’ll only have yourself to blame.
  • Whenever you think of something you’d like to read, watch, listen to or blog about make a note of it so you’ll remember it later.
  • Keep up with at least one major American tv show.
  • When you’re introduced to people try and remember their names.
  • Pick your own friends. That’s the point of friends after all. If you meet someone who you think is really cool and funny and who you think would be good to get to know, befriend them. Make them your Friendship Victim. Then laugh about the concept of friendship victimhood with them one day when you’re both good and drunk.
  • Go to the theatre or cinema at least once a month, but sneak your own snacks in. Be ambitious but also be frugal. Remember that you probably won’t be able to finish that 2 litre tub of ice-cream, nor will you want to, and ice-cream gets very melty if it’s sitting in a cinema for 2 hours.
  • Wear pants/shirts/aftershave that make you feel sexy. Everyone needs to feel sexy now and then, even if we’re not getting any.
  • Stop qualifying things. ‘Let’s do that if we can‘ and ‘yeah that’s great as long as…’ just sound depressing and non-committal. Make decisions, commit to things, let yourself enjoy them. It shouldn’t be that hard.
  • Go on holiday with your friends.
  • Take moments to pause, look around you and think about what this scene would look like as a memory. Then remember that you’re living it right now. Then smile.
  • If you think someone looks nice then say so, either to them, or if you don’t know them to someone else. Don’t expect a compliment back, but if you do get complimented then learn to accept them gracefully.
  • Stop having imaginary arguments in your head. It’s probably not healthy.
  • Appreciate other people’s points of view but if you really believe in what you’re saying don’t compromise your own. There’s room for more than one opinion in this world after all.
  • Keep an eye on your health, even if it’s just “am I getting enough vitamins?”
  • Always dance like nobody’s watching. Unless it’s a dance competition.
  • Invest in a really comfy pair of shoes.
  • Accrue fancy dress accessories whenever possible, because you never know.
  • There’s more to the Internet than Facebook and twitter. Go and find something that makes you LOL. Share it.
  • Lusting after expensive gadgets is fine but be able to appreciate that playing with a ball on the beach can be just as much fun and will probably never need run out of battery.
  • Talk about sex more with your friends. Start off appropriately and once you’ve found their level enjoy how much fun the conversation can get. You’ll probably surprise yourself. You’ll hopefully surprise them too.
  • As well as the dirty jokes, enjoy the clean, daft ones that are the sort your parents would tell. Then remember them so you have jokes you can tell in front of your parents.
  • Do you have any siblings? Are you friends with them? Make this happen. They already know most of the things about you anyway so you want them on your side. Also it’s good to have allies at big family Christmases.
  • Drink alcohol. Bring a camera. Have fun.
  • Don’t assume that your friends know all of your stories. Spend evenings exchanging them and getting to know your friends a little better.
  • Learn as many people’s middle names as you can remember/find out.
  • Get photos printed. It costs next to nothing and it’s really nice to have photos stuck up on your wall.
  • Follow your desire lines. Walk along the wall at the side of the path. Take this route rather than that one ‘just because’. Cross over the road if you want to. Don’t cross if you don’t want to. Going from A to B doesn’t mean you can’t see some more of the alphabet along the way.
  • Everyone else is not cooler, better looking, thinner, stronger, cleverer, healthier or having more sex than you. They just aren’t. So stop worrying about it and go enjoy yourself.

Other #sunscreenchallenge posts have been written by bloggers and tweeters @Guy_Interruptd (Sex, Drugs and Sausage Rolls), @Baxfail (An Exhaustive List of Baxfails), @chrisgolds (A Chap Called Chris), @lucasowen_85 (Scene but not Herd) and @bainser (Bainser – Menswear Style Blog).

For more, search the #sunscreenchallenge hashtag on Twitter.

And for those of you who haven’t seen the original Baz Luhrmann video, here it is:

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