25 May 2020

Everybody’s free (To Wear Sunscreen) – great advice to young graduates

This is really a very hard year for students graduating from college. I should know. I have one at home. To go thru four years of college and not be able to say Good Bye face to face to some of the great relationships you made in campus is gut wrenching. To be thrown out of a college into a job life where nobody is hiring – worse, you will compete for jobs with more experienced people – and most likely next year two batches of students will vie for the same jobs – well, that was not how the movie was supposed to have been written.

Yet, this too shall pass. There is not an iota of a chance that the message of this being ephemeral will land with any graduate. No more than when I told by daughters’ friends once they landed in great colleges to defer their admission, take a year off and backpack thru Europe or South America.

It is very hard for them to understand the perspective of elders. As is it for elders to understand theirs.

Thee following message was sent to me by my dear friend Larry Mason – the same guy who had sent me the “I wish you enough” message first. This time he sent me a Youtube video. I am not sure of the source – it is from 1997, apparently. I have attached the artist’s name as given in Youtube.

The message is equally great for graduates and their parents. Although, chances are that the parents will understand it more.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 97,

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 proven by scientists. Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis, no more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Well, 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 at all. But know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind… the kind that blindsides you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday 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 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 are gone.

Maybe you will marry. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you will have children. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you will divorce at 40. Maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.

Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chances; 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 is the greatest instrument you will ever own.


Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. Read the directions even if you do not follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel UGLY.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they will be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings…. They are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but 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 will 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’ll 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 is worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.”

(Artist: Baz Luhrmann)

Posted May 25, 2020 by Rajib Roy in category "Musings


  1. By Amitesh Mukherjee on

    I wish I had seen this Sunscreen advice when I was younger. Not sure what I would have done with the advice because even after all the scientific data supporting the use of sunscreen, I never use it going to the tennis court – ever. I have had a lot of conversations with Esha in last few days as she decided her new major. Some of the advice from Mr. Luhrmann rang some bells. I will share someday.

    Yes. This will pass too and all of the 2020 graduates will be ok. Simon Sinek said, in a recent video – “ we are in a dark tunnel. But there is a light over there. I don’t know how far away that light is. …But when we come out of there, we will have a better train. “

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful and meaningful and helpful messages for all of us – not just for the graduating seniors.

  2. By Julia Winston on

    Love this piece! Thank you for sharing. I love the way he starts with something as simple and tangible as sunscreen and zooms out to the most complex truths of life!


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