On March 19, in order to lend a hand to potential entrants in Trop’s short fake commencement address contest, which is open for submissions for just barely one week more and promises prestige, cash, and publication in Trop to its winners, I got on Gchat and interviewed actual high school student, Vermont resident, and cousin of mine, Silas Farwell Mead.
tom here i am
so nice to see you here
in this incredible venue
should we start the interview?
is having a commencement address writing contest
and we thought that
being that you are an actual high school student
maybe you could tell our contestants what you would like to hear from a commencement address?
maybe you could provide some guidance?
possibly. thing is our high school is so small that every graduate talks, so theres no commencement speech
silas this is what’s called a curveball
in the lit mag industry
so you’re telling me there’s no master of wisdom who gets up before everyone?
every graduating senior talks and that’s the whole deal?
pretty much. head of school talks at the beginning and such but no VIP speaker like at other high schools and colleges
so your expertise is limited
can we interview anyway?
yeah for sure
you can just pretend you have all the answers
nobody will ever know
we’re not reputable
ok im okay with that. so what are some questions?
the first question is
what are some of the main life concerns you have right now that you’d like to have answered by the wisest person you’ve ever heard of?
oh fun… i dunno… maybe how can i become as successful and wise as you are
yeah that’s a good answer
i’d say that you have to work hard and press your luck
when handed an inch, take a mile
talk fast and don’t listen
that’s my strategy
does that help you?
solid answer. i like talk fast and don’t listen. so are you supposed to be the wise person then?
i am a wise person
but i’m not the only one
there are lots of us
giving speeches is a cottage industry
hilary clinton is a good example
should we move on to a new question?
for your whole life
you’ve had parents and teachers and scheduled lunch hours
and all that kind of stuff
and then one day you wake up
and the whole world is like a massive stretch of desert
like the Sahara
or like an ice sheet or something
you get the idea
wide open, yes
but also utterly bleak and terrible
a wise man appears
like an apparition
either water or a really warm jacket
as the case may be
and you are allowed to ask this man three questions silas
what are they?
odd question there
1. Can you help me?
2. How can i get out of here?
3. What’s the purpose of my life?
here are your answers
2. To where would you like to go?
3. The purpose of your life is to persist
can you answer the second one?
somewhere exciting but where i am able to leave
but hold on
so you’re going to answer all my questions yourself?
if i find one i can’t answer, i’ll deflect it
that’s another good strategy to remember
back to the ice sheets
the problem is that it has no door?
to anywhere else?
like, the whole damn thing’s a trap?
yeah i guess thats the problem
i would want to see that world for a while, but i want a way back to the familiar
those are what’re called ‘the lost years’
i guess now we know why
ok new question
do you think that, at least sometimes, fantasy is accurate?
im sorry what?
if a fantasy of a world without doors
is just like the world we live in
for example i’m in a computer lab with a door right now
i’ve been going through doors all day
and if i were to find myself on an ice sheet
i wouldn’t look for a door
i’d look for a boat
i’d look for skates
that’s a really good answer but it kind of breaks the metaphor
which is just fine
we’ve been on the ice sheet for too long
do you have any advice for potential commencement speakers?
use stories. the best and most interesting speeches aren’t just full of inspirational words; they have stories that relate to our lives
not just boring words
ok good advice
can my friend peter ask you a question or two? he’s here
silas, peter nichols here, could you share an example of a “story”
it sounds like something our constituents ought to be more familiar with…
haha okay sure… this is more hypothetical. for example, if a speaker is talking about how he became the ceo of a company, instead of saying something silly like hard work pays off, he tells a story about how he started as a lowly worker and worked his way up to the top
the guy from Costco did that
he started at a mattress company
down in San Diego
this is Tom again by the way
ok Silas that was some excellent advice
i think our contestants have the power now
can we just ask for your bio?
grandest life ambition?
Silas Farwell Mead
The Sharon Academy
To be happy
Silas you are a wise man
thank you sir, you as well
thank you for participating in our commencement survey!!!
All right tell me if i make it on the website
we need you
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.