Your Life’s Sunscreen

Mary Schmich’s Article for the Chicago Tribune for her column on June 01, 1997

WEAR SUNSCREEN

Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, suncreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen has 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.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. But never mind, you will never understand the power and the beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in twenty years, you will 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 knowing that knowing that worry is just as affective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindsides you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday. Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other peoples’ hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealously. 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.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what 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 still don’t. 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. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it everywhere you can. Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room.

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.

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

Understand that friends come and go. But for a precious few, you should hold on.

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, for 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.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old and when you do, you’ll fanatisize 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’ll never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re forty, 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 wishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Australian Film Director Baz Luhrmann used this in his album “Something for Everybody”. Click this to watch the video.

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