Remember those What Would Jesus Do? bracelets that were popular a few years ago? The rubber ones that came in different colours for every cause, and looked a bit like cheap, Made in China, knock-off anti-nausea bands? Lance Armstrong had a yellow one before Lance Armstrong turned out to be the poster boy for sociopaths everywhere, and for a time they seemed to be on every wrist in the first world. At first they proclaimed our devotion to different charities, and then, later, reminded us in stamped technicolour to ask ourselves what Jesus would do in any given situation.
I mean to start with, I doubt Jesus would have bought a rubber wristband that takes at least 50 years to decompose, but I digress…
I never really fell into this fad – mostly because I have tiny wrists and the rubber bands only ever seemed to come in one size (HUGE) – so I didn’t own a WWJD bracelet, but in my life, whenever I reach crossroads of intent, I often ask myself something that boils down to more or less the same thing:
What would Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen advise?
There are few problems in life that aren’t addressed by The Sunscreen Song. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, in 1999 Baz Luhrmann – yes, the film director – took a hypothetical commencement speech written by Mary Schmich, found a voice actor (Lee Perry) to narrate it, and set it to mellow background music. If you’re not familiar with it, I’ll add the lyrics at the bottom of the post so that you too can have a song as a role model.
The other day a friend asked me if I would be interested in running an 8km with her later in the year. Naturally my instinctive, gut reaction was to say, ‘Hell no!’ and do the usual full-body shudder that tends to accompany any thought of running on purpose for no good reason.* After all, I can’t even run to the bottom of my road without wanting to vomit, so 8km seems like an impossible distance. You might as well ask me to climb K2 in my unicorn slippers with nothing but a Capri Sun for sustenance.
Before the immediate no left my lips however, I thought, ‘What would Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen advise?’
If you are familiar with the song at all, then the answer is obviously:
‘Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you will ever own.’
If my body is an instrument, it is an out-of-tune cello, but I have to say Sunscreen has a point. My body in its current configuration exists solely to propel me from place to place, from the armchair, to the fridge, to the desk, to the nearest pet-able animal… This instrument doesn’t really play. This instrument is the guitar lying forgotten under the bed ever since dreams of being in a band faded with adolescence. This instrument needs a tune-up; it’s long overdue some attention.
There is nothing wrong with my body. It does what I ask it to do without complaint, mainly because I never ask it to do anything too strenuous. It fits into my clothes. It is perfectly capable of having a solo dance party in the kitchen. I have no aches or pains, no ailments or diseases, nothing that would impede movement or limit my activity. I have never broken bones, or undergone surgery, or had stitches put in. I can’t burp, which limits my consumption of fizzy drinks, but other than that it works pretty much the way it’s supposed to.
So I thought it over, and I warily, tentatively, somewhat reluctantly said yes; I said yes to the 8km. If this is the greatest instrument I will ever own, I might as well learn to play a tune on it, even if the tune is the physical equivalent of Three Blind Mice. I’ve downloaded C25k to get me started, and have lost myself in a sea of runner recommendations, so if anybody has any suggestions for a good pair of running shoes, please let me know.
Also, if there’s a way to stop the feeling of getting sick at the slightest hint of exercise, I would love to hear it!
*Good reasons are limited to situations in which I am escaping an axe-murderer or trying to outrun a pack of wolves.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’97,
Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have 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. Never mind, you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll 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, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Remember the 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.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want 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 I know 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 every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but in 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 people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you
should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because 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.
Accept certain inalienable truths: prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do, you’ll fantasize 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 have a wealthy spouse, but you never know when either one might run out.
Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, 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 fishing 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.