Do you remember “The Sunscreen Song” by Baz Luhrmann? The real name of it was “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” but it came out around 1998 and even though he never really sang, the words of inspiration became a hit that have been probably played over and over again at countless graduation ceremonies since. I had not really thought about it until last weekend when I was hanging with a good girlfriend of mine at Polar Fest in Detroit Lakes where lots of winter activities were taking place but there also happened to be helicopter rides.
Sitting outside on an unusually warm winter day enjoying a beverage and the rarity of the sun, we saw a helicopter land on the frozen lake and she turned to me and said, “should we go on a helicopter ride”? I’d never been on one before and neither had she, we thought this could be a fun adventure. In my one moment of hesitation with should I do this, I had the words of the song pop into my head ” do one thing everyday that scares you” and I with no hesitation walked out on to the ice to get a helicopter ride.
The exhilaration I felt stepping into the helicopter let me know I’d made the right decision. If you ever want a new appreciation of the land, of a frozen lake, of nature really, then take a helicopter ride. Even with there being mainly snow, ice, bare trees and Detroit Lakes Mountain to see it was beautiful up there, breathtaking really. It was like being in your own little world.
After I had been on that small adventure I started thinking more again about the words of Luhrmann’s song and looked up the lyrics again and the story. Did you know that it was actually written by a Chicago Tribune columnist? Her name is Mary Schmich and the column was titled “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”. It was an essay she wrote and said she would have given back in 1997 for a commencement speech had she been asked to speak. It was only a year later that director Baz Luhrmann used it on his 1998 album Something for Everybody and it turned into a hit.
In one part of the song it talks about looking back after twenty years have gone by and I realize it’s been twenty years since the essay was written, and I wonder how much of the song has happened to me? Did I heed any advice from it? Does most of it or any of it speak truth? What have I learned in the last twenty years…lets break it down and see.
“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” Lyrics
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be
it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by
scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
than my own meandering experience,
I will dispense this advice, now.”
Part 1 of the advice: Sunscreen might be some of the most solid pieces of advice within this song because it is so true. I wear it everyday, on my face anyway and I have friends who haven’t worn much sunscreen and would tell you now wear it, even if you don’t think you need it.
“Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth;
oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve 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,.”
Part 2: I’m not sure I completely agree with this one 100%. I feel that we can grow like a fine wine and just get better with age. But the real bottom line is love you, always love you. Don’t be so hard on yourself no matter what age you are, because loving yourself is key to allowing yourself to love someone and to be loved.
“Don’t worry about the future; or worry, 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 blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.”
“Sing” (even if it’s just in your car, singing is good for the soul)
“Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.” –You’ll know when you are being reckless with someone’s heart and if you are stop, just trust me on that one. But you might not always know when someone is being reckless with yours, that’s what our friends are for. Often we are so close we are blinded by the truth and we need our friends to help us back, even if it hurts trust them.
“Floss” – Check, something I too am trying to get better at.
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 the compliments you receive, forget the insults;
if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.” – Those insults can go deep so remember that if you start to throw some out yourself. None of us are perfect.
“Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.” –Now a days letters might be emails, either way keep them and if you really want to show a person you care, take the time to write a personal letter, you’ll be surprised how grateful they’ll be and how good it felt to give.
“Stretch” – this bit of advice was not something I really thought about until about a year ago when my IT band flared up and it felt like some of the worse pain I had ever been in. We do eventually start to get a little older but stretching has made a world of difference and I find I’m able to do more than I use to, so stretching, do it.
“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.” -Just don’t waste your life doing nothing and don’t be dependent upon your parents or others, do make sure to provide for yourself along the way, you’ll feel better about it.
“Get plenty of calcium.”
“Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.”
“Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t,
maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t,
maybe you’ll divorce at 40,
maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary,
what ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance,
so are everybody else’s.” –Looking at this I tell myself over and over again remember everything happens for a reason, you’re life is headed in the direction it’s suppose to and you’ll get your answers one day it just might not be today or even tomorrow, but one day.
don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it,
it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.” A reminder to once again love yourself for who you are not what someone thinks you should be.
“Dance,even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.” and when you have friends to do it with you in the living room, even better.
“Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.
Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.”
“Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.” -I once read that while we were busy growing up our parents were also growing old, it’s true, so enjoy the time you have with them, find out about their past and the families past so you don’t question who you are.
“Be nice to your siblings, they’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.” -Living at home together you might fight, but one day (hopefully) you’ll grow up and get along, sometimes they will end up being your best friends. But regardless they’re family and again, you never know, what if tomorrow never comes.
“Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on.
the more you need the people you knew when you were young.” -Friendships will come and go and that’s okay. Sometimes certain friendships were only meant to help us through different parts of our lives or you theirs. Do your best to know your real friends and rid yourself of the fake.
“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.” –I can’t say I’ve ever even visited either of these places, but I say you don’t necessarily have to live here to feel like you lived.
“Travel.” – Adventures in life are important, in my opinion more important than possessions. Memories can last a lifetime.
“Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander,
you too will get old and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young
prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.” -Everyone feels this way and perhaps you will too one day if you haven’t already.
“Respect your elders.” -Remember respect is earned not given…but at the end of the day you should always show respect.
“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.” -same goes for many things, take care of yourself in general.
“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’s worth.” –We will all live and learn but accept some of the advice along the way like this song, because learning from others mistakes, others lessons, can definitely be helpful along the way. But as the essay goes if you take one bit of advice it’s the last one…
“But trust me on the sunscreen.”