Chicken and Waffles
By Peter Stein, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, May 25, 2012
This is a love letter.
When I arrived four years ago, I did not know who I would be today. Because I did not know you. Some of us have met. You have meant so much to me. If we did not meet, then that was my loss. It would have been an indescribable privilege to have met you. Because you are you.
You are the product of a series of happy mistakes, just like everybody else. Thanks, Vonnegut. Read more Vonnegut. Actually, just read as much as you can.
Do not make spot judgements. I used to hate some of the people who today I count among my dearest friends.
Keep your mind and your heart open to the unexpected. Never rule anyone out.
Have regrets. You make mistakes. Acknowledge them. Don’t be afraid of them. Accepting that you fail is one of the hardest things that you will ever need to do. Do not let it get you down. Real life accepts makeups.
Let yourself get scarred. Don’t be so afraid of getting hurt or crying that you never let anyone touch you. There will always be someone there to kiss it and make it better. You only grow by healing.
Believe in something. Anything. It can be as simple as the sun rising or as awe-inspiring as the existence of God. Believing shows you how powerful your mind really is.
Sometimes it rains. You know that. Sometimes everything around you is falling. There might be hail or snow or sleet. Someone you love might go to rehab. Someone you love might withdraw. Someone you love might stop talking to you. Someone you love might graduate. Someone you love might be crying and you have no idea why. Someone you love might die. When this happens, look to the people who love you absolutely, give them a hug, maybe grab a drink and wait for the sun to come out. It never really takes more than 12 hours. Or maybe 12 months.
Be honest. There is nothing more noble. It is easier to be honest with other people than it is to be honest with yourself. Learn to trust yourself.
Trust. The people around you need it. You need not believe everything you hear, just enough of it so that you can have a decent conversation. Believe stories. Even if not all of them are true, they make the people around you real. Don’t hang out with ghosts. They’re boring, spooky and often vindictive.
Don’t stop. It wastes gas, and gas is getting pretty pricey. Take breaks, of course, but don’t waste time. Some people say that haste makes waste. I’ve found it only makes paste of bugs that get in your windshield. Let’s be real, most bugs kinda suck.
Don’t preach. I break this one every week, but it’s hard not to be a hypocrite all the time. Let people be themselves. They’ve been alive a pretty long time, just like you. Take advice to heart, but remember to be yourself.
At times, this place has been hard on all of us. It beats you up. It’s rough sometimes. When I look back on my time here, I may, on occasion, recall some of the tough times. Maybe. But there are more things about this place that I will never forget than there are that I will ever remember. Hold those as close to your heart as you can. They’re your pacemaker.
Try to stay in touch. Take that one however you want.
Do not lose things. I’ve lost a lot of things. I have no idea where a few pairs of sunglasses are. Socks, too. I’m never going to stop looking for them. I’ll do anything to hold onto things. People, too. Grab onto the things that you hold dear, and never let them go. Patch the holes in your pockets if you need to.
Try not to argue too much. Yes, your opinions are fascinating. Yes, you are a very smart person. Same with everyone else. Do not be so self-absorbed that you take the things you say as gospel. That was written a long time ago, and most people don’t buy everything in there either.
Express yourself. Make art. It keeps you sane, and it makes you proud of who you are. My greatest accomplishments here were art projects.
I’m guessing that’s because life is more an art project than a problem set.
I have never admired anyone for getting a good grade on a problem set. I have admired people for a poem or a painting, a song or a sculpture. Express yourself in whatever way means the most to you. Whatever it is, people will love you for it.
Learn a magic trick. I love magic tricks.
We humans have spent countless generations striving to unite ourselves, to turn bands of hunters and gatherers into villages and cities, to turn these cities into nations and to turn these nations into the human race. Be part of it. And enjoy it while it lasts.
Let yourself fall. Every fall is terrifying. You need to be able to let go of yourself. You need to be able to get scared. Every time you trip, every time you jump from a plane, every time you tell someone you love them, you’ve changed. Plus, someone will always be there to catch you.
You are damned lucky. Never forget how impossible it is that you even exist, let alone that you’ve felt the wind on your face, shared your life with others and fallen in love.
Treat every meal like breakfast.
To the Class of 2012, congratulations. And to the rest of you, you have no idea how lucky you are. I love you all, and I hope that someday we see each other again, screaming in the wilderness with tears and memories in our eyes.