May 30, 2015
My Message to the Graduating Class
Yesterday, about a year after I had my own graduation from grad school, I participated in my first official graduation ceremony as an educator. As I sat in the audience, one of my many thoughts, besides thinking how much longer would I have to sit here after a long day and long week of work, was what would I say to the graduating class? What would be my message to them? Would I be witty and pithy, or would I try to convey deep meaning and bring tears to the eyes of the audience? What would would I say if I was up there?
Although the graduation I attended was by no means as grandiose as sitting in the bleachers of Columbia University’s lawn, glimpsing baby blue as far as the eye could see, with my brethren of thousands of graduates and their guests. That indeed was a memorable experience due to the shear volume of humanity packed in one place to celebrate hundreds of thousands of dollars of sometimes a questionable level education. No this was a smaller, more intimate affair and truth be told, I don’t know what I would say exactly, but I have an inkling.
I think about what I would want to say to my past selves as they graduated from each of the tiers of education. I would say that this marker however much as we try to make the most memorable and most meaningful, is not. However we try to make it of the utmost importance with balloons, flowers, and special outfits, speeches and photos, no this is not what is the most important thing. The culmination event is not what you should remember above all else. In the long and sometimes inane journey through the educational system, when you go through the trials and tribulations that we as civilization have made your education, what you should remember and catalog in your memory banks is the moments.
The moments that have built you up and tore you down, the moments of doubt and triumph, of learning and struggle, the moments are what is most important. How you are in these moments, add these together and you will see your journey. This one moment, this marker of graduation, is the end of one chapter and the opening of another. But, as you continue along looking towards the next event that we have deemed important and the next and the next, be present in your life, take action and take notice.
Time is fluid and every changing. In a blink of an eye these moments that were yesterday will be years in the past, and what you will be left with is what’s in your head and heart. The lessons you learned, the struggles you overcame, the relationships you have built, and the passions that were ignited within you. Be flexible, be present, focus on what you have and what you can achieve, and build your life how you see it, not for or designed by anyone else. You will never know where you will end up, and what would be the fun in it if you did? So enjoy the meanderings of what we call life and as actor Ed Helms said in one of my new fave gradation speeches…
“The world is not a meritocracy but merit still matters. The world isn’t fair, but being fair still matters. The world is unkind, but being kind still matters, perhaps more than anything… simply strive to improve.” (https://youtu.be/4AInPI6pRBY)