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Laugh at yourself

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While covering Ronan High School’s graduation last week, I had the great fortune to hear guest speaker Amy Miller offer up one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. 

It was funny, it was engaging, it was touchingly honest and it was absolutely true.

But one idea stuck with me above all the others. It was a simple phrase, but it resonated deeply with me and I’ve given it a lot of thought ever since.

“Life is much more fun if you are your own amusement.”

When I was a kid, I used to do a lot of stupid stuff. In fact, I still do a lot of stupid stuff. I’m Polish, so it’s in my DNA to be an idiot from time to time. Anyway, I was a toddler and I don’t remember exactly what I said or did, but it must have been hilarious because my mother was laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe. 

I remember being angry that she was laughing at me and throwing a fit. 

This made her laugh even harder. When she caught her breath, she told me, “If you can’t laugh at yourself, you shouldn’t laugh at anyone else.”

“Well,” I remember thinking, “I really like laughing at other people, so I’d better start laughing at myself,” and my life has been filled with chuckle-giggle-snorts ever since. 

With this idea in mind, here’s a few short stories about stupid things I’ve done. Feel free to laugh as much as you’d like, because that’s what I’m doing.

I once put butter on the bread before I put it in the toaster oven. For those of you who’ve never done this, butter is fat and fat is flammable. What seemed like a great idea and a way to save time quickly became a race to put out a massive kitchen fire. I’m still convinced the idea is sound, though. Just needs some tweaking.

I once installed a stripper pole in a friend’s college apartment while more than a little tipsy because, well, how does one install a stripper pole in a friend’s apartment while sober? I thought I’d screwed it into the floor joist and ceiling stud, but I missed both. It gave way halfway through the next party and sent several of my friends to the ER. You do not know what the term “awkward” means until you’ve tried to explain that scenario to your friends’ parents in the hospital waiting room.

I once dropped a brand new, still-in-the-box $1,500 refrigerator off the bed of a pickup truck. I didn’t secure it properly because I was in a hurry, and I was speeding because there was a pretty girl on the other side of the street. The fridge hit with enough force to shear both doors completely off and imbedded the steel siding with gravel-like shrapnel. I didn’t get caught, but I didn’t get the cute girl’s number, so I’m going to call that one a wash.

Whenever I lay concrete, I always take whatever change is in my pocket and throw it over my left shoulder into the rebar. It’s my version of making a wish and throwing a penny into a fountain. On one occasion I accidentally threw my keys into the rebar and didn’t realize it until the concrete had set. I walked home that night and, as far as I know, the keys are still there.

I once took a laxative and a sleeping pill at the same time. OK, that one is a lie, but I still don’t think it’s a very good idea. Word to the wise, so to speak. 

I used to think “Euthanasia” was spelled “Youth In Asia” and therefore wondered why adolescent Chinese people were so controversial.

I broke my football helmet in high school and had to get another from the athletic trainer. The new helmet was brand new and had no gouges, cuts or scrapes, so my teammates started making fun of me because I looked like a third-string sissy. I promptly grabbed a nearby friend and, as a joke, started headbutting him to scratch up my helmet. I gave him a third-degree concussion and put him out for the season. Like I said, Polish.

So, to all the new graduates — making mistakes is terrifying, so I won’t say “don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” Instead, make the mistakes, learn from them and, more importantly, laugh at them. 

It’s impossible to be afraid if you’re laughing, and as Amy Miller said, “Life is much more fun when you are your own amusement.” 

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