As you embark on this new stage of your life, you will feel lost, excited, and overwhelmed. For the first time in your life, you will be in control of how you spend your time. Which can be just as a wonderful opportunity as it is a frightening, and bone-chilling experience.
I won’t spend too long preaching about cookie cutter solutions to the challenges laid out before you. I will not waste your time with a half-hearted commencement speech, nor will I tell you that you should live each day like it is your last. A simple internet search can result in millions of truisms that speak to the trials and tribulations of this life. We know that the student loan situation is a looming disaster, that the refugee crisis in the Middle East grows more dire each day, and the planet just celebrated its warmest year on record.
We know the world could be better; that it should be better. But let’s put that aside for the moment.
I want to talk about you. I want you to know that you are both infinitely important, and completely insignificant. I found this realization to be sobering and enlightening, just as I am sure you will too.
It’s important that you know you are a miracle, and that you make a tremendous difference in the lives of the people around you. It is an amazing phenomenon that your bones continue to support you, that your heart continues to pump blood through your veins, and that your body’s trillions of cells are working hard each day to keep you alive. You will always be your ideas, your creativity, your steadfast will, and your zealous resilience. I need you to never forget that there are many people who believe wholeheartedly in your abilities.
Because sadly, many people that you will meet won’t see these amazing qualities about you. They will try and discredit your achievements, or will tell you that your lack of experience tarnishes your accomplishments. They will throw away your resume, pass you over for promotions, and will give to others what you rightfully earned. Although you are a miracle, you remain one out of the seven billion people who roam this globe. To those who do not know you, you will be an insignificant number in a crowd.
You will learn that a lot of people in this world, your future employers included, will want to know what you can do for them. It is important that you know you will not get what you deserve in this life, you will get what you can negotiate. I need you to show the people who doubt you that they are wrong. Humor them. Teach them. Reveal all of the wonderful things that make you so great. I know you can do it.
The fear of failure can be scary, but you should not be afraid to fail. It is important that you realize you will never be your failures. On your worst day, people will still love you. Please keep in mind that that it will only be your successes that stay with you. Which means, that only by learning from your failures will you become successful. Arrogance is not becoming, and I know you will learn from your mistakes. Your ability to overcome anguish will help define your future.
I know that at times you, like the millions of recent graduates who have come before you, will struggle to adapt to a new schedule, new priorities, and the demands that come with life’s newest stage. I want you to know that it is okay to feel lost. Your life up until now has been well planned out; a series of circumstances and schedules that has lead you from one grade to the next, a series of carefully picked out, thought-after decisions made by people much older than you. I know that their actions were well-intentioned, but only you can decide the life that is right for you.
Many people have tried to define success, but have failed miserably in their attempts. I have come to realize that those who are truly successful are the ones who spend their time doing what they love. Despite what anyone else ever tells you, time is our most precious commodity. Always pursue the moments that make you come alive. Dedicate your life to fulfilling your desires. Know that work can give your life meaning, but understand that there is more to life than your career.
Remember to always be kind. Be patient. Help others. For I want you to know that this adult world is not quite what we imagined it to be when we were children. I constantly find myself completing more paperwork, running more errands, and paying more bills than I ever imagined. Yet, despite the mundane routines that adulthood can bring, I am often saddened by the way people treat one another. That we ignore situations that we should condemn, and we admire those who are not worthy of praise. However, despite the world’s challenges, I am extremely excited to welcome you to this adult world. For I know you have the ability to solve some of the world’s toughest problems, and I know you most certainly have a wonderful adventure ahead of you.