Skip to content





Little Tips

作者:Joe Pinsker



策划:璐雪 & 小康

I Didn’t Have Any Graduation Wisdom. So I Asked 19 Smart People Instead.

What a novelist, a therapist, a Buddhist teacher, and others have to say to the class of 2020:

In late January, I agreed to give a commencement speech at the high school I went to. I had vague ideas about what I might say—probably something about the perils of following predefined college-major, career, and life “tracks.” But before I began preparing in earnest, the pandemic hit, and I soon felt that my message seemed irrelevant and probably even unnecessary, since everyone has recently been derailed from their tracks in one way or another. On top of that, I realized that I didn’t have the faintest idea of what I could say to a group of people who were graduating into chaos and misfortune.

I struggled to come up with any guidance because, frankly, I see so little that people, especially young people, can do to dodge the many harms of the pandemic. But since I couldn’t plausibly get up on a stage (or a videochat) and tell everyone to just give up, I decided that I’d instead outsource the task of wisdom production by asking a bunch of smart people from a variety of fields—writing, psychology, history, and others—what they’d say to the class of 2020.

I’m not giving the commencement speech after all, but I thought that convening this pandemic-commencement brain trust anyway might be useful, because it’s who I’d want to hear from if I were graduating right now, whether from high school or college. The following advice is not meant to provide a positive spin on miserable circumstances; the pandemic sucks, unavoidably and, it seems on some days, irredeemably. Nor is the advice meant to be definitive; no one truly knows the way forward. But hopefully the guidance I heard from these 18 people—which I’ve grouped below into five categories—will help steady this year’s graduates, along with anyone else who needs steadying.


“The future is uncertain,” said Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, a Buddhist teacher in Seattle, when I asked him what he’d tell the class of 2020. “But the strange thing is, the future has always been uncertain. Change is taking place in every moment, with every rising opportunity.” He thinks of the pandemic as a chance to note the constancy of change—“a forced opportunity to transform our relationship with uncertainty.”
对于2020届毕业生,西雅图的佛学导师竹庆本乐仁波切(Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche)给出的建议是:“疫情笼罩下的未来充满不确定性,但未来本身就是不定的。而且机会伴变化常在。”他认为正是疫情点明了变化的恒常性,“并迫使我们重新审视不确定性”。

Along those lines, the fiction writers Karen and Jim Shepard think that this moment of heightened uncertainty “should be simply sobering, and not paralyzing.” “When our middle son was applying to colleges,” they told me, “he said he felt like he was making an enormous decision with almost no information, and we noted in response that the trick was not to avoid uncertainty but to try to develop the skills to manage it. So our hope for the graduates of 2020 is that, even acknowledging the instabilities of our time, they remember and continue to nurture the skills necessary to read and react to the unexpected.”

Lori Gottlieb, The Atlantic’s “Dear Therapist” columnist and the author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, also sees uncertainty as a sort of opportunity. “Sometimes when we feel like our path is planned out, we blindly walk along it, and it’s only later that we say, ‘I wonder what would have happened if …,’” she told me. “Uncertainty allows you to reinvent yourself. It opens you up to new experiences.”
大西洋月刊“亲爱的治疗师”的专栏作家、《也许你该和人聊聊》(Maybe You Should Talk to Someone)一书的作者洛瑞·戈特利布(Lori Gottlieb)同样把不确定性视为一种机遇。“有时我们感觉自己计划好了之后的路,然后就会盲目地走下去,但没过多久就会说:‘要是我……,又会怎么样呢?’”她说道,“不确定性能让你重新创造自我,给人带来全新体验。”

Oliver Burkeman, the author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, agreed that uncertainty has its uses, despite the skepticism his book title suggests. “There’s a crucial way in which these two things—uncertainty and possibility—are actually the same,” he pointed out. “Things have to be up in the air, at least to some extent, in order for anyone to engage creatively with the world, and thereby craft a meaningful life. If we were ever to achieve the definite knowledge of the future that we tell ourselves we want, it would feel like a kind of death,” in that knowing one’s life story in advance would squash one’s sense of forward-looking possibility.
奥利弗·伯克曼(Oliver Burkeman)是《乐观病:给正面思考中毒的人的快乐解药》(The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking)一书的作者。虽然从书名看来伯克曼习惯对事物持怀疑态度,但他也同意不确定性有它的用处。他指出,“关键在于不定性就象征着可能性,事物必须要有些不定的成分,才能激发人去创造,活出有意义的人生。如果我们能预知想要的未来,人生就全无可能性可言”,因为人在提前知道自己的人生走向后就很难再向前看了。

He also made an observation that seems obvious but that might go overlooked at a time when people are so fixated on the future: “The fact is that you’ve never known what the future holds … so you’re very probably better than you think at coping resiliently in conditions of radical uncertainty. You’ve been doing it since the moment of your birth.”

The unpredictable, then, doesn’t have to be paralyzing—a conclusion backed up by the advice of Colin Ramsay, whose job it is to teach people how to quantify uncertainty. He’s a professor of actuarial science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “Do not be risk-averse,” he said. “Gather as much information as you can—then take measured and calculated risks.” Similarly, he suggested that graduates draw up a short-term plan (“say for one or two years”) in addition to a longer-term one—advice that could prove useful for other adults too, young and old alike.
另外,从柯林·拉姆齐(Colin Ramsay)的建议中可以得出,不可预知未必会让人一蹶不振。柯林·拉姆齐是内布拉斯大学林肯分校(University of Nebraska–Lincoln)的精算学教授,专门研究量化不确定性。他说,“不要害怕风险。要收集尽可能多的信息,而后计算权衡,再承担应有的风险。”同样,他还建议毕业生对(一、两年的)短期和长期计划两手抓。这条建议其实也适用于所有成年人,不论年龄大小。


Jason Farman, a media scholar at the University of Maryland, has studied how people respond when they have to wait for something to happen, giving him an unusual perspective on the present moment. “Whether living through a pandemic or in an era of health, you should never defer your happiness to an unknown future,” he said. “You will do your best work when you understand that the present moment is not a delay or an in-between time … Do not wait for conditions to be perfect; perfect conditions will never arrive.”
马里兰大学(University of Maryland)媒体专家杰森·法曼(Jason Farman)主要研究人们在被动等待状态下的反应,所以他对“当下”有着独特的看法。他表示,“不论是疫情期间,还是公共健康处于正轨的时代,你都不该把自己的幸福寄托在未知的未来。要知道,现在既不是正常生活被推迟,也不是回归常态前的过渡阶段,只有明白这一点,你才会拥有最佳状态。不要等着天时地利人和,因为永远都不会有一个真正完美的时机。”

One way of pursuing contentment now, suggested Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist who focuses on health and happiness, is to find ways to help other people. “Maybe that seems cliché or corny, because it sounds like advice to ‘be nice’ or to ‘do good,’” she said. “But the truth is that humans are wired to experience hope and courage when we are needed.”
心理学家凯利·麦克高尼格尔(Kelly McGonigal)致力于促进人的健康和幸福感,她认为现在要想获得满足感,方法之一就是帮助他人。“这也许是老生常谈,因为听上去像是‘多做好事’、‘当个好人’的大道理,但事实上,人类天生会在被需要时感到希望、变得勇敢。”

Of course, during the grueling wait for this crisis to end, many people aren’t searching for happiness so much as wondering how they’ll make it through. For insight on that, I consulted Tony Mangan, an endurance athlete who holds the world record for the longest distance run on a treadmill in 48 hours—which is not just an incredible feat, but also, given the perseverance required and lack of actual forward motion, probably the most fitting metaphor I’ve yet to come across for life in lockdown.
当然,等待危机过去的确痛苦。在此期间,许多人往往更加担心怎么才能熬过去,而不是去创造快乐。为此,我请教了耐力项目运动员托尼·曼根(Tony Mangan)有何看法。他是世界48小时跑步机最长距离纪录保有者,这项纪录本身就不可思议,何况运动员还要付出惊人的毅力,忍受跑步位置不变的枯燥过程,所以我觉得这可能是从隔离生活开始以来最适用于当下的比喻了吧。

Mangan’s record stands at just over 250 miles, and I asked him what was going through his head, helping him keep his legs moving while not actually going anywhere. “I broke the treadmill run up into manageable segments of 30 minutes, that’s all—all 96 segments,” he wrote in an email from Tanzania, where he is waiting to continue a roughly 30,000-mile walk around the world put on hold by the pandemic. “You say I wasn’t going anywhere, but I was on my way to a world record.” (In case you’re curious, Mangan napped for about an hour cumulatively during those 48 hours, plus “pretty minimal stopping for food, toilet, etc.”)


So much of this pandemic is unprecedented, but a bit of solace can be taken in how people have weathered previous chaos and disasters. “If you spend the next 30 years reading and writing about epidemics, as I have, you’ll be able to take heart in the fact that we will get through this terrible pandemic,” said Howard Markel, a historian of medicine at the University of Michigan.
这次疫情在很大程度上可说是前所未有,但过去的人们也经历过混乱和灾难,我们可以从这些历史中获取一丝慰藉。密歇根大学(University of Michigan)医学史学家霍华德·马克尔(Howard Markel)说,“如果你在接下来的30年中不断阅读流行病的相关资料,并进行写作,就像我过去30年所做的一样,你就能明白我们终将战胜可怕的病毒,并对此坚信不疑。”

The class of 2020 is not the first bunch of graduates to finish school at a deeply uneasy time. Paul Hendrickson, an author and former Washington Post reporter (as well as a beloved college professor of mine), told me that when he finished college and then graduate school in the late 1960s, “it seemed as if the world was about to end every day.” The Vietnam War, riots across the country, the killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the violence at the 1968 Democratic Convention—it was overwhelming. “It almost seemed as if nothing would ever be the same again in America,” Hendrickson said. “Except it was. Except the boat eventually righted itself. So I have to think the same kind of righting is somehow not far off. We just can’t see it now, in the midst of our miseries. In the meantime, we have to go on—trusting, believing, working to overcome.”
在如此严峻的时代背景下毕业,2020届并非独一家。作家保罗·亨德里克森(Paul Hendrickson)曾担任过华盛顿邮报的记者,也是我喜爱的一位大学教授。他告诉我,上世纪60年代,他结束了大学本科和研究生学业,当时“好像每天都是世界末日”——彼时,美国深陷越战泥淖,紧接着国内暴动四起,1968年马丁·路德·金(Martin Luther King Jr.)和罗伯特·肯尼迪(Robert F. Kennedy)先后遇刺身亡,同年民主党全国代表大会还发生了暴力镇压,这一切都让人应接不暇。亨德克里森说,“整个美国仿佛翻天覆地,就像一艘翻了的巨轮,除非自救否则一切都将走向歧途。所以在我看来,现在离这样的时刻也不远了。只是如今我们深陷困境,还看不到一个合适的时机来力挽狂澜罢了。与此同时,我们必须不断前行,彼此信任,心怀信念,共克时艰。”
译者注:1968 Democratic Convention即1968年美国总统选举背景下在芝加哥举行的民主党全国代表大会,会议期间警方对反对越战示威者实施了暴力镇压。

Some more recent history might be reassuring as well. Tim Ebner, a writer and communications director in Washington, D.C., graduated from college in 2008, during the Great Recession. Looking back 12 years later, Ebner said that while he did see his peers’ job stability and earnings take a hit, the recession “helped me to explore pathways in my career that I never imagined before,” and he’s “extremely happy with where my career is now.”
同样,最近的历史也能给我们一些安慰。蒂姆·艾伯纳(Tim Ebner)现在华盛顿担任通讯主管,同时也是一名作家,而他在2008年大学毕业时恰逢当时的全球经济危机。他表示,回顾毕业后的12年,虽然目睹了同龄人的工作和收入都受到了严重冲击,但那场经济衰退却“帮我走出了自己从未想过的职业道路”。他“对自己现在的事业非常满意”。


Ebner, having built a career after emerging from school into a major economic downturn, also passed along some advice about finding a job. “Get comfortable talking to strangers,” he said. “Almost every career opportunity that has come my way resulted from a soft connection—a job lead from a next-door neighbor, a referral from a friend of a friend, or even a chance encounter with an HR recruiter on an airplane.” He acknowledged that face-to-face networking is difficult right now, but encouraged graduates to develop connections digitally and reach out to people for virtual informational interviews.

There’s room for ambition, too. “You can still dream big,” said the philosopher Martha Nussbaum. “Don’t let fear put you in a box. Think what really brings you joy, and pursue that with all your energy and commitment.”
同时,理想仍有实现的空间。“你依旧可以有一个远大的理想”,哲学家玛莎·努斯鲍姆(Martha Nussbaum)说,“不要让恐惧束缚住手脚。好好想想什么能真正带给你快乐,然后全身心投入其中。”

Still, job searching right now can be exasperating, so thinking about work with a zoomed-out perspective might be helpful. “Careers are long,” said Vida Maralani, a sociologist at Cornell University. “Be flexible in what you do next and know that your next job doesn’t have to be what you do forever. Some of my most valuable experiences have come from jobs that I thought of as temporary stepping stones. Use these stepping stones to get yourself through the current crisis, and know that they will become distant first steps on a much longer path.”
虽说如此,找工作在眼下依旧是桩烦心事,所以立足于一个更宽阔的视角可能会好很多。康奈尔大学(Cornell University)社会学家维达·马拉拉尼(Vida Maralani)认为,“人的职业生涯很漫长,所以找工作要灵活,要明白你不一定要在下一份工作上干一辈子。就我个人而言,我原本以为暂时作为垫脚石的工作最后反而成了我最有价值的经历。所以你要用这类工作度过现在的危机,要知道它只是你在未来漫长职业道路上走出的第一步。”

The same outlook applies to money and savings. “Don’t take your personal finances personally right now,” said Farnoosh Torabi, a personal-finance expert. “If your dream job is no longer viable or if you have to move back in with your parents to help make ends meet for a while, that is not your failure.” The present circumstances will make it hard for many young people to start building up their savings, but they should remember that this is not their fault.
这一点同样适用于金钱和储蓄。私人理财专家法诺什·托拉比(Farnoosh Torabi)说,“现在先不要一个人承担财务问题。也许你无法找到理想的工作,或者不得不暂时和父母一起住以减少开支,但这都不是你的失败。”目前的情况会让许多年轻人都很难开始积攒存款,但他们应记住这不是他们的错。

Besides, earnings and productivity aren’t a reflection of self-worth, even if American society sometimes makes them out to be. “The culture that a student is graduating into right now prizes individualism and constant output of visible results, to an extent that can easily lead to isolation and burnout,” said Jenny Odell, an artist and the author of How to Do Nothing. “My advice is to have the patience and trust to disengage from that value system … The times in which you’re not making anything or racking up achievements may well turn out to be the most meaningful times in your life.”
此外,尽管美国社会有时会以收入和生产力衡量个人价值,但事实上这两者并不能反映个人价值。艺术家、《如何才能什么都不做》(How to Do Nothing)一书作者杰妮·奥德尔(Jenny Odell)认为,“眼下毕业生即将进入的是一个极其重视个人主义的文化环境,且强调要不断产出看得见的成果,以至于容易引发孤独、过劳等问题。我的建议是要有耐心和信心,摆脱现有价值体系的影响。或许,什么都不做或一事无成的阶段反而会成为你人生中最有意义的时光。”


These days, the perennial commencement-speech subject of making the world a better place is more charged than usual: Saddling this year’s graduates with the burden of fixing this terribly unequal and unjust world seems unfair. But for those who want to try to change how things operate here on Earth, I heard from some people who had ideas.

First, how to react to the present crisis. “Young adulthood is a time of breaking away. I hope that some of you will seize that feeling and lead a public-health revolt,” said Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Overturn social structures that produce uneven health impacts and curb risky practices at the human-animal-environment nexus that can spur the emergence of novel pathogens. Go for broke.”
首先,如何应对当前危机。莫妮卡·斯科奇·斯帕纳(Monica Schoch-Spana)是约翰·霍普金斯卫生安全中心(Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security)的一位医疗人类学家,她表示,“年轻就是要挣脱束缚。我希望你们当中有人能领悟到这点,掀起一场公共健康运动,来推翻使民众在医疗方面受到不公待遇的社会结构,遏制对人类、动物和环境之间平衡关系造成威胁的行径,以防止新型病毒的产生。年轻人应当全力以赴,勇往直前。”

Interruptions of normalcy also present an opportunity for a broader rearrangement of society, beyond public health. Katie Eder, the 20-year-old executive director of the youth advocacy group Future Coalition, noted that young people are often the group that sparks change. “Everyone in our generation has this power and it’s up to each of us to realize it,” she said. “We must meet these times of uncertainty by standing up for justice and continuing to test the limits of the impossible.”
当生活脱离正轨,人们也因此有机会能在公共健康领域之外对社会实施更大范围的重整。今年20岁的凯蒂·艾德(Katie Eder)是青年组织“未来联盟”(Future Coalition)的执行董事,她指出通常年轻人是引发改变的群体。“我们这一代每个人都有这种能力,做不做全在我们自己”,她说,“我们必须坚定维护正义、不断挑战极限,来面对现在的不确定性。”

Andrew Solomon, the author of Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, told me that “if we are lucky, [the pandemic] will awaken humankind to the fact that disaster is always possible.” He hopes that the present upheaval will spur renewed efforts to heal the environment and tamp down on economic inequality. In witnessing the pandemic firsthand, he said, “you have the gift of knowing that the social order can be undermined by a sudden and unanticipated change; that people can radically transform their behavior when the severity of the threat is made evident to them (you can help make it evident); and that most of us can manage when our way of life is changed beyond recognition. Don’t squander that gift.”
《背离亲缘》(Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity)一书的作者安德鲁·所罗门(Andrew Solomon)告诉我说,“运气好的话,人们将(因这次疫情而)意识到无论何时,灾难都有可能发生。”他希望现在的不安局势能刺激人们重新开始努力改善环境、遏制经济不平等现象。亲身经历了新冠疫情之后,他相信,“你会从中明白很多事情:社会秩序会被突如其来的意外变化所破坏;人们在了解到威胁的严重性之后能彻底改变自身行为(你也可以主动帮助人们看清威胁);而我们大多数人在经历了意想不到的变故之后也依然能生活下去,所以不要白白浪费这次机会。”

As I read the responses that came in for this article, one thread I saw running through much of the advice was the observation that, ultimately, everyone is buffeted by uncertainty even in non-pandemic times, whether they pause to dwell on that fact or not. Really, we’re all making it up as we go along, even the experts. But I think that they are, collectively, onto something, and here’s how I’d distill their guidance: Recalibrate your relationship to uncertainty, remember that others have been in your position before, and don’t forget to make time for “food, toilet, etc.” The et cetera is often where the joy is.


  • 本文原载于 The Atlantic

  • 原文链接:

一、了解取经号 | 我们是谁,在做什么,如何加入
二、学习贴士 | 如何打印输出PDF如何使用微信读书订阅取经号
三、翻译服务 | 咨询邮箱:[email protected]
四、社交媒体 | 微信公众号:取经号;微博:取经号JTW
五、译文归档 | 访问网站
六、学习社群 | 翻译社(暂停中)


Comments are closed.