If Instagram has taught us anything, it’s that Jennifer Garner is one of the most adorable celebs on the planet. From pointing out her own wardrobe malfunctions to her amateur cooking tutorials to reliving her old marching band days, she seems like the most relatable, approachable and fun famous person to be around. That’s why when she offers up life advice, we’re pretty inclined to pay attention.
Jen was the commencement speaker at her alma mater Denison University and she dropped some great advice in her commencement speech that applies to not only the graduating class of 2019, but to all of us. Garner graduated in 1994 (approximately “one Ariana Grande ago,” as she pointed out) and this week received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
Here’s what we learned from our wise and hilarious leader.
1. Call your friends on their half-birthdays to catch up
“You should do it. Just pick a few people.”
2. Don’t walk down the Grand Canyon to see what it looks like from the bottom
“It’s great from the top. You should do that. But when you get to the bottom it’s just a big hill and it’s a pain in the ass to climb back up. “
3. Don’t smoke and don’t vape
“We know vaping smells like maple syrup or pineapple or cotton candy, whatever it is, but now that you’re going to be adulting, it’s not cute. Just don’t do it.”
4. Wear your sunscreen, honey
“Nothing looks better in your fifties than sunscreen in your twenties.” #Neutrogena
5. Don’t be a sexy nurse for Halloween
“When it comes to Halloween costumes, go funny over sexy. Why would you dress like a flirty nurse when you could be a mailbox? It’s an opportunity.”
6. Mixed signals are not mixed signals, they’re a NO
7. Have a book on your bedside table at all times
“And read it, obviously.”
8. Be in charge of your consumption of social media
Easier said than done but it’s good to have goals.
9. Foster a sense of humour about yourself
“Because otherwise you run the risk of being boring. I’m sorry, somebody has to say it!”
10. Get it, girl
“If you’re a woman—and pardon me for being binary for just a second—the stage has been set, the world is yours to grab, go out and get it girl.”
11. Stay close to your friends from college (or the friends who make you happy)
“You just spent four years hanging out with them and that history is invaluable. Work friends—you talk to them about work; lovers—you talk to them about love and dinner reservations; but friends from college—you can talk to them about everything and you can do nothing with them and still be happy.”
12. Childhood does not end and adulthood does not begin at a single moment
“When we talk about this moment, we usually say you’re about to enter the ‘real world’ as if the ‘real world’ just begins on a certain day… but you know from personal experience that childhood does not end and adulthood does not begin at a single moment. The transition happens slowly and differently for every one of us.”
13. Life is a dance
“You’re engaged with some sort of dance with life and sometimes you lead and sometimes life leads and the truth is: life isn’t going to be 100 per cent perfect.”
14. Chances are your life will be 65 per cent happy
“That’s a big win and a likely score. That is ‘Fresh’ on Rotten Tomatoes.”
15. There’s no finish line so happiness is your own responsibility
“At some point you will realize there is no finish line to cross; there is no moment when you’re just supposed to be happy. While you wait for those moments—while you wait for that perfect job, the MCAT score, the engagement ring—your life is happening and isn’t it enough? Happiness is your own responsibility so attack it.”
16. The lottery of birth is a prize or a penalty that is difficult to overcome
“Our successes and failures sometimes lie beyond our control… in this country, where you were born, who your parents are, what economic conditions you were raised in, race, gender identification—these things have an overwhelming, sometimes insurmountable effect on who you are.”
17. Everything is a combination of gumption, hard work and luck
So work hard and understand that you can’t control it all.
18. Don’t rush to judge people in tough circumstances
“Our American, ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ mentality leaves little room for the crush-and-tumble toxic stress of poverty… If living in the same circumstances, almost all of us would find ourselves in the same boat.”
19. Insist on optimism
“Dig in. Fight for what makes you optimistic about the world. Find it. Insist on it. Dig into it. Go after it.”
20. Choose kindness
“A smile and a moment of your time can help the world more than you can imagine and it’s free to boot.”
Thanks, Jen. Congrats on your doctorate!