At the beginning of this month I had the opportunity of a lifetime to address the class of 2012 at my high school’s graduation as the keynote speaker. I wanted to share my speech with you all because it wasn’t just “stuff” that seventeen year olds can live by.
Good Morning Sister Danielle, Faculty, Staff, Family, Friends and the beautiful graduating class of 2012. I have to start off by telling you how incredibly honored I am to be with you to share in this commencement ceremony. When Sister Danielle asked me if I would give this address, it seemed truly surreal. Part of the honor of delivering this speech is the fact that this was Sister’s last year as principal of Maria Regina…and ladies, what a legacy you have been a part of.
I feel blessed to tell you that sometimes life comes full circle…when I sat in your seat in 2004 my life had been forever changed. During my senior year I lost my father, who had shared a very special relationship with Sister Danielle –she had been an instrumental part of our lives that year and beyond and was so incredibly gracious as to speak at his funeral mass herself. Here I stand, also in a church, to celebrate her and all of you, the chance to pass along some words of wisdom are, for me, a dream fulfilled. Somehow I know my dad is with us as well, because he was by far one of Sister’s biggest fans.
Today is the first day of the rest of your lives. The world awaits you beyond those doors. How exciting and nerve wracking a time this must be for you. Perhaps there are decisions yet to be made and naturally some fear of the unknown. I’m here to tell you that in one way or another, no matter your age we are all still finding our way in the world. Rather than consume yourself with where you’ll end up, I am here to insist that you enjoy the journey you are setting out on..this journey of not only college, but of life.
In my role at work, I have the pleasure of helping young adults’ everyday to envision how their passions and education can be combined to make for a fulfilling career. It isn’t always so black and white. Sometimes it will take years to find what actually “fits”. This might mean some setbacks and disappointments along the way. Let’s be clear about something…you will make mistakes throughout your journey. The road may split or become unclear. Maybe you’ll even head what seems to be the wrong way. But mistakes are lessons themselves, so please don’t be afraid to make them. Sometimes we must know what we don’t want in order to know what we do. Don’t just try to find a job; you will only be satisfied when you find your calling. If do what you love, you will love what you do. And here is something I wish someone had told me..since I am usually adamant about doing things myself…let others help you if they offer. If they have wisdom, light your candle in it.
Don’t try to seek all the answers right away. There are many unknowns in life that are meant to stay exactly as they are-mysteries. Sometimes you’re supposed to keep guessing, so that you can marvel when the answer is revealed to you in some way, something or some person. Let it tap you on the shoulder, so you can be surprised. You will come into your life, as you go. Sometimes you end up where you never expected to be. When you get there enjoy it, because chances are it will be beautiful too.
You should know this by now but you are incredible young women. I don’t have to know you personally to tell you that. Be kind to yourselves. You live in a world where there are all kinds of external pressures to overwhelm you., people who will want to change you. Promise me that you will only ever be yourselves.. Because you see as Oscar Wilde says…”Everyone else is already taken.” Perhaps the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. One of the biggest compliments you can receive is to be told you seem comfortable in your own skin. This doesn’t happen by accident. Keith Olbermann an MSNBC journalist said “The world bursts at the seams with people ready to tell you you’re not good enough. On occasion, some may be correct. But do not do their work for them. Seek any job.; ask anyone out; pursue any goal. Don’t take it personally when they say “no”-they may not be smart enough to say “yes”.
Don’t forget your roots. The last four years of your lives have helped to shape you, perhaps in ways you may not even recognize. The lessons you’ve learned are the first of many. Maria Regina probably feels more like a home than a high school to you. Your very first teachers- your families were the ones who planted the seeds for your growth. If you’re lucky like I am- they will always be there-cheering you on. Believe it or not you have all the tools you’ll ever need for your journey. They already reside within you- your heart, your conscience and your intuition will seldom let you down. Do not be afraid of hard work. You will be wiser for it and your character, strengthened. Be open minded and never stop learning EVER. Surround yourself with good people.
Trust in God’s plan for you and the path that will lead you there, which in the end -means learning to trust yourself. I wish you many successes, the support you will need to get where you’re going and peace and light to guide you. Thank you Sister for your tireless work, your wisdom, love and support for 26 years, for being an example of God’s Grace. Most of all to the class of 2012- CONGRATULATIONS!