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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Tim Arner thought he would get paid for this

This is my final column for the S&B, at least for a while, and I’ve thought a lot about what a final column should be. Particularly at this time of year, it seems fitting to write something for the graduating seniors, to offer some sage advice and words of wisdom from a respected member of the faculty. Unfortunately, none of the respected members of the faculty will return my calls, so I guess it’s up to me to drop some knowledge, Arner-style.

I really don’t care if you wear sunscreen.

People will tell you that graduation isn’t really the end, but rather the beginning of a whole new adventure, the first step on the next phase of the wonderful journey of your life: this is why the ceremony is called commencement. That is a cliché and cliché is just a fancy French word for “lie.”

When you leave Grinnell, you may be surprised by how the real world works. There are a few things you should keep in mind.

Self-governance doesn’t apply in the real-world. Instead, there are laws. Lots of laws. You should familiarize yourself with them.

It turns out that some holidays are not nationally recognized. October 10 and April 20 have no special significance after you receive your diploma. When those days roll around next year, take a minute to let out a huge, sub-free sigh and then get your ass to work.

There is no 100 Days or anything like 100 Days for adults. At least, I’ve never been invited to a 100 Days-type party for grown-ups. If you find out that there is one, please e-mail or Planlove [arnertim].

The day I graduated from college, my mom presented me with a used 1992 Plymouth Sundance. Her gift to me was the down payment and I was responsible for paying off the balance of the loan. I made monthly payments over the next three years. When it was finally time to get rid of that sweet ride, I took it to a junkyard figuring I could sell it for scrap and parts. The guy who ran the place gave me $50 only after I argued for 10 minutes that his initial offer of $40 was unacceptable. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is.

At the commencement ceremony, you’ll hear some interesting statistics about the graduating class. Some statistics, however, you can only find here.

Out of the roughly 400 seniors who are graduating: 278 of you committed intentional or unintentional acts of plagiarism. 176 cited Wikipedia as a source without any hint of irony. 131 of you can name all of the cast members of Jersey Shore but only two of the Beatles. Seven of you read “The Canterbury Tales” in its entirety, and you are the seven seniors best equipped to handle the many challenges of the modern world. 356 of you will have attended Block Party. 13 of you will remember attending Block Party.

But the Senior Class cannot be reduced to mere statistics. Each of you has an important story to tell and a song in your heart. For most of you, however, that song is probably something by Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus, and I find that horribly depressing.

Hey, do you realize that the next time someone calls you a “senior” the word will be followed by “citizen”?
Some readers may object to the tone of this piece because it doesn’t adhere to the conventions of an end-of-the-semester, pre-graduation send-off column. Some of you are undoubtedly thinking, “Professor Arner, we know that you’re an amazing teacher, an incredible scholar and a great writer. You also carry yourself with an intense sophistication nicely tempered with youthful charm and enthusiasm. But while you’re keeping it real, as a man of your integrity and stature always does, could you also give us some words of encouragement?”

I can and I will. Your time here has allowed you to grow and mature and develop in important ways. You’ve received a quality education, both academically and socially, and you can leave here knowing that you possess a variety of skills that will allow you to meet the exciting challenges that lie ahead. It’s now time for you to take your place in that proud tradition of Grinnellians who carried their education with them into the broader world and made a positive impact on their communities. I know that you’ll make us proud.

But in these difficult economic times, keep in mind that if you’re ever short on money, you can sell a used copy of “Oh the Places You’ll Go” on Amazon for $3.52.

Now let me get personal for a minute and reflect upon my own time here. As I mentioned, this is my last column for a while, as I’m officially retiring from the column-writing business. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to be part of the Finest Student Newspaper West of the Cedar River and East of the Mighty Des Moines.

I need to thank the editor of the Opinions section for her support and guidance during the writing of each column; she deserves a lot of credit for shaping the final product. I also want to thank the editors-in-chief for the past year, who worked tirelessly each week to bring the S&B to the entire Grinnell community. I’m not kidding when I say that these three amazing students have absolutely earned my admiration and respect, and it was a tremendous pleasure working with them.

My own humble contribution to the S&B during this past semester has been a labor of love. I had hoped that it would be a different kind of labor, the kind where a man receives a monetary reward for his services, but it’s been a labor of love instead because these jerks have refused to pay me. Was the title of my column not a big enough clue?

In the end, however, maybe I shouldn’t be in it for the money. Perhaps it’s more important that I gave people something to think about, provided some valuable guidance with regard to topics like bowling and vampires and believing in yourself. I live to give, my friends, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed what I had to offer. As you go out into the world, I especially hope that my words will help you achieve great things, and that one day you’ll find yourself in the position to give a little something back. Because I’m serious about that 100 Days thing. Holler at your boy.

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