Perhaps it was due to their trenchant commentary in the upcoming compendium I Could Pee on This, Too: And More Poems by More Cats. Perhaps it was the result of their impassioned TED Talk that later proved to be a demand for breakfast. But either way, my cats Leelo and Kiki were invited to deliver the commencement speech at a recent college graduation ceremony.
Unfortunately, it was only after toiling for hours on their presentation did they learn that the academic institute in question—California University—existed solely in Beverly Hills, 90210 and Saved by the Bell: The College Years.
But that in no way should diminish or dismisses the impact of their wit and wisdom on tomorrow’s leaders. So for all those with new diplomas in their hands, hope in their hearts, and countless questions in their heads, perhaps you will find the necessary inspiration and insight in the following excerpts from their speech.
• One of the reasons cats sleep so much is that most of us spend our days in the company of another cat or two. We all think the same, we all believe the same, we’re all on the same page, and we’re boring the crap out of each other. So hang out with a dog. Talk to a ferret. Be happily startled by the appearance of a piglet. Meet as many different and different-minded individuals as possible. That’s the only way to ever truly stay awake for at least an hour or so a day.
• As a cat I can tell you that some people will hate you without ever having met you. Some people will adore you without ever spending time with you. And some people will love you for who you are and occasionally could not be angrier with you for what you do. These people will be your dearest friends, and one of them is probably pissed at you right now.
• The first couple of years on your own can be financially difficult. So try to find one food you really like and then buy it in 25-pound bags.
• Cats are notorious for their “private time,” and occasionally you’ll find yourself in a similar position. But it’s important to remember that “alone” and “lonely” are not the same thing. It’s all a matter of why. That said, at some point someone is going to ask if they can share the couch with you, and your decision will determine just how wide your world can be.
• Let’s face it, cats make snap judgments. If we could roll our eyes we’d probably do so for 28 of the 30 minutes we’re awake each day. But even cats know that whenever someone says, “The older I get the less patience I have for stupid people” what they’re really saying is “The older I get the more intolerant and easily overwhelmed I become.” So maintain some level of patience, even if it means staring at something invisible across the room for an hour or so.
• Some days you’re suddenly going to run and run and run and run and run and run and run in circles and then just as immediately stop, never knowing what the hell all that running was about. And you will call those days “weekdays.”
• Remember, you can only control life so much. At some point you’re going to have to bend as well as move forward, and be okay with what life brings you. Otherwise, no matter all your planning, all your obsessive detailing over every aspect of your life, one day you’re suddenly going to look around startled and ask yourself, “How did I get here?” And if your question sounds muffled or echoes the answer is “Because you decided to shove your head inside a jar.”
• No one will ever be on the exact same schedule as you. And this will annoy you. And this will frustrate you. And this will make you feel like you’re the only person in the world who is responsible or trying to get things done. Then you look in the dead-eyed stare of the person you just woke up to feed you at 3 am and realize there will always someone else who will be frustrated by your own timetable as well.
• If you find yourself at a party in the company of very rude or thoughtless people it is perfectly acceptable to walk away from them in mid-sentence, perhaps stepping on their crotch on your way out.
• You don’t have nine lives. We don’t have nine lives. Before you know it you’re going to have to be carried around more than you would ever want. So right now get up off your chair, make a mad dash for the open door, and find out just why the family dog has been going on and on about how great wet grass feels on your ass.