The doctor’s rules for graduates of 2009

Posted May 18, 2009, at 6:28 p.m.

I went through almost 300 of my old columns and made the smart things I have said over the last 10 years into this, my commencement address to graduates of 2009 (which makes for a very short address, the best kind).

If you don’t exercise regularly you are rotting before your time, and it is not going to be long before you look older than your parents.

Remember that the more you smoke the more makeup you need.

Get all of the education you can. Income and life expectancy are tied to education level.

Think of an unpaid balance on your credit card as a financial zit on your forehead — you want it gone ASAP.

Keep an American flag to remind you that some Americans have sacrificed more for all Americans than most of us can ever imagine.

Less than a hundred years ago women in this country could not vote, life-saving antibiotics did not exist, and children as young as 8 could work in factories. People such as you changed all of that, and much more. If you think you cannot make a difference you are spending too much time with your head up your Xbox.

If you want unconditional love, get a dog. The love of most people in your life is something you have to keep earning.

Did you pause today to tell the people you love that you love them? If not, smarten up, because no one is guaranteed tomorrow.

Remember that most of us can be smart or we can think about sex but we cannot do both at the same time.

Remember that being drunk or high reduces your IQ to that of a gerbil — a dumb gerbil.

Never underestimate the power of alcohol or drugs to suck your life down a rat hole.

If you are a woman and your man ever hits you, scoop up Toto and run.

Think before you tattoo.

Vote as though lives depend on it, because they do.

You can be someone’s love or you can be the winner of every argument with them, but you cannot be both for long.

When you make a mistake, just admit it, apologize and mean it, and don’t do it again. At that moment you will be more of an adult than most of our U.S. presidents.

Never, ever, give up a good idea.

If you cannot remember the last time you were kind to someone, it has been too long.

Be someone’s Pooh Bear, someone they can always trust.

Give something to others on a regular basis — blood to the Red Cross, money or time to a charity, attention or patience to someone who needs them, etc. It will make you someone’s hero.

Spend some time working for six bucks an hour, so you respect those who do it for a living and remember why it is you need to continue your education.

Do every job as though it is an interview for your next job, because it is.

One reason you have teeth is to occasionally use them to bite your tongue.

Think of the cold as God’s way of reminding you what it is like to be poor, and when you are cold, remember those less fortunate than you.

If you win every argument you can be darn sure you are wrong at least half the time.

Don’t be a pessimist — it is like spending your life walking in deep, wet snow.

Speaking of snow, always buy the biggest snowblower you can afford.

If you have to sniff your shirt to see if it is clean enough to wear again, it isn’t.

Give thanks for teachers — they are some of the few people in the world who care whether you improve a little every day.

You can find a lot at the mall, but not the best things in life.

And remember, you are never too old to call home, or to visit home and sleep with your favorite stuffed animal. We are so proud of you, and we are missing you already.

Erik Steele, D.O., a physician in Bangor, is chief medical officer of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and is on the staff of several hospital emergency rooms in the region. He is also the interim CEO at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital.

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