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My Commencement Address as Director of an Alternative High School

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

I remember this time last year, I was preparing for my first graduation with the Harriet Eisman Community School and I was admittedly very nervous - at the time I had this teeny tiny fear of public speaking. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say teeny tiny - my nervousness was composed of practicing my speech in front of the mirror a hundred times until I memorized it. So I guess, yes, not so tiny.

I wanted everything to be perfect. I’m not sure why I had let my nerves get the best of me weeks prior to graduation, but looking back now, I realize that I let my mind run wild with all of these ideas and conjured up images of things that could go wrong instead of all the wonderful possibilities of everything that could go right. And it’s funny, isn’t it? How our minds can often drift to the negativity and the fear, rather than positivity, confidence and ease.

I start today with that particular moment of my life because I think it translates well into what you are all experiencing right now. This time, your graduation today, is something that’s completely brand new for you. Today symbolizes the passing of the old and the birth of the new; of endless opportunities and possibilities.

And sometimes new things can be scary. Change can be scary. But what I’ve come to learn is that any new element that crosses our paths is as intimidating or scary as we make it out to be. At the end of the day, we choose how to react to the new - we choose how to react to change.

And this change that you’re experiencing now, is one of the most beautiful types of transitions. You have so many choices in front of you; your options are as endless as your imagination. Use your imagination now! Have fun dreaming up a life that is as wonderful as you can conceive. This is the exciting part! This is the part where you get to have big, bold dreams and take your first step at achieving those dreams.

When I was in high school I had an English teacher who I really admired and wanted to be like. I got to know her pretty well during my senior year and I had found out that she always wanted to be a published author. She had a few poems and short stories published but she never got around to writing the book she knew she was capable of.

She had thirty years experience of teaching high school English, of showing others how to write well, but she wasn’t writing for herself. Thirty years had passed where she was comfortable with her teaching job, but still secretly dreaming of being an established author. And she was a brilliant writer - but she just never started working on the one thing that she felt she was truly meant to do.

I’ll always remember her story because it didn’t only show me how fast thirty years can go by, but that we all have this one thing inside of us that makes our hearts beat faster; that causes butterflies to rise in our stomachs; that turns the wheels of our imaginations in motion. These feelings are indicators of our passion - the ingredient that brings us purpose and meaning.

What is your passion? What gets you excited in the morning? What is the one thing you can’t picture your life without? Whatever that thing is, go for it with all of your might. And if you don’t yet know what that thing is, that’s okay, you have time. Time offers you countless experiences, many ups and downs, and endless chances at taking risks until you figure out the stirrings of your heart. The important thing is that you don’t let your life pass you by without at least trying to reach for your dreams.

Don’t let thirty, twenty, ten, or even five years rush past you while staying comfortable in a “safe” job when on your lunch breaks and weekends you’re dreaming up another existence or admiring someone else who’s already doing what you know you’re fully capable of. Because the truth is, you’re doing yourself and the world a great disservice if you don’t follow your heart. Who knows what gifts you can offer the world when you don’t chase after the passion beating through your veins? That pulse; that rhythm, is within you for a reason, and the reason is that it’s wants to be expressed through you - through your life.

Our job is to unravel this treasure sitting at the base of our stomachs, brushing up against the corners of our hearts, and to live out the very thing that will bring us the most joy, love, happiness, and meaning. If we can live our lives in such a way, then we become an example for others to live more fully. If you live your life going after your dreams, then your work won’t be “work,” it will be the masterpiece of your existence.

Go forth and live your dream. Become the creator of your best possible life.

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