Yesterday, the Plain Dealer published an interview it recently conducted with famed Calvin & Hobbes writer, Bill Watterson. Reading it took me back to 1990 when I travelled up from Columbus to Kenyon College, my future alma mater, for commencement.
Watterson was the speaker, and to me at the time he was only known as “the guy who wrote the funny comic with the kid and the tiger.”
But despite my youth at the time, I still remember the speech he gave that day. I dug up the text and included some of my favorite excerpts. I highly recommend you take a few minutes and read it in its entirety by clicking here.
“At school, new ideas are thrust at you every day. Out in the world, you’ll have to find the inner motivation to search for new ideas on your own. With any luck at all, you’ll never need to take an idea and squeeze a punchline out of it, but as bright, creative people, you’ll be called upon to generate ideas and solutions all your lives. Letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems.
For me, it’s been liberating to put myself in the mind of a fictitious six year-old each day, and rediscover my own curiosity. I’ve been amazed at how one ideas leads to others if I allow my mind to play and wander. I know a lot about dinosaurs now, and the information has helped me out of quite a few deadlines.
A playful mind is inquisitive, and learning is fun. If you indulge your natural curiosity and retain a sense of fun in new experience, I think you’ll find it functions as a sort of shock absorber for the bumpy road ahead. “
“So, what’s it like in the real world? Well, the food is better, but beyond that, I don’t recommend it.”
“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.
You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.
To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”
“Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask yourself.”