Valediction Speech

Not too long ago a family friend approached me. She’s maybe in her forties or fifties and promptly reassured me that it was okay if  I don’t know what I want to do after I graduate because she is still figuring out her life too. This took me by surprise since I would assume that a middle-aged mother of a post-graduate son should have her life planned out by now. I assume that is something we would all expect. This fact may add some fear to our undecided lives, but mostly, it should relieve us. Make us feel okay that we don’t already have our entire lives planned out. Our society puts immensely high pressure on us taking the “correct” classes early in life so we can start to prepare for our career path  for the rest of our lives. But, I’ve got news for you, we are going to be working for the rest of our lives. So, what’s the rush?

Another teacher explained to me her situation when I asked how she became a teacher. Her life was simple. She went to college, switched majors a few times, landed on teaching and is thinking of trying something else again — going back to school. Her life, though, was much more relatable because I realized I wasn’t far behind her. She even staged the question, “who says we have to have only one job?” This really got me thinking, because it’s never occurred to me to have multiple jobs. In my personal experience it’s probably because my parents have had stable jobs through my entire life. In school, too, we are taught and focused to do well so we can eventually have a stable and permanent job. However, we don’t have to. And why wouldn’t we? I’ve much rather learn my entire life instead of being the one who teaches others. I mean eventually a stable job would be nice but not until I figure out what it is I love enough to do the rest of my life. Some people instantly know what they want but I can guarantee at least 99% of students change their major or career path along the way. So don’t be afraid of uncertainty. And mostly, don’t be in a hurry to live life.

I could stand here and tell you all the advice you should listen to and how you should live your life. Presently, that is exactly what I am doing. One thing I have witnessed repeatedly over my short life so far and not without fail is that no matter how much advice you’re given, the best way to learn is to experience things first-hand. My cousin told me high school would go by fast. I believed her but it didn’t change anything. It didn’t go any slower from her having told me. I could have figured it out myself. Life cannot be learned but rather it needs to be experienced.

So as you go today, I hope that you will take all the advice you have ever been given and use it as a guide. With that guide though, you need to decide what is best for you and no amount of advice can determine that. Don’t feel like every advice you hear is true either, because everyone can only give what they have been given. If their experiences are different from yours then it may not apply to you. Advice should be considered but until you have actually experience something for yourself, it seems to not always work the way it should. From today, I encourage every one of us to challenge ourselves by going into the world and experiencing our life. They will all be different but we can only change based on what we have witnessed. One of the best things in life is to help others. Well, if this is the goal then the best way to reach this goal is by helping ourselves first. How are we supposed to give great advice to others if we don’t even know what has or what hasn’t worked for us? We can’t. The more exposure and the more we try experiencing the more we can learn and therefore give.

Find what works for you. Give yourself the exposure to try many things. And unless you’ve already found something you truly care about, keep trying things. Don’t let the structure of school and classes cut you short from experiencing rather than listening and learning.

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