As most of you who have been following along with my newsletters and blog posts for while now know, I work as a project director of a small, alternative high school in Long Beach.
Around this time for the last three years, I prepare for our graduation ceremony and have to write both a commencement address and a letter to the graduates.
As I'm looking back at some of my old speeches and letters now, I thought that the letter I wrote last year would be suitable for our Sunday Club despite all of you not being 2019 high school graduates. I shared my first ever commencement address with you a few months ago - this letter is somewhat different in style, but has some motivational advice that can help shift a discouraging mindset into one that is excited and ready for a brand new week of your one, precious life.
I hope you enjoy it and find a piece of yourself in it.
I sat for a long time trying to come up with a creative and original introduction for this letter to you, the graduating class of 2018. With multiple drafts thrown away, sentences deleted, words added and then deleted again, I’m left beginning this letter with exactly what I was trying to avoid: conventionality.
What new remark could I say that hasn’t already been said to students ending one chapter of their lives and entering another? What words of hope could I instill among you that you haven’t already heard?
The truth is, there is no new expression or phrase. No matter what I write here, it’s been said before in one way or another. But the students who have read or heard these similar expressions before at their graduation ceremonies are not you.
They haven’t walked in the shoes you’ve walked in; they haven’t endured the same experiences you have; and they don’t know these precise feelings of accomplishment and victory that you now have at your graduation.
You are an entirely unique, rare and beautiful group of students who have each come to the Harriet Eisman Community School with your own journey; your own stories; your various life choices; and your willingness to succeed despite any circumstances. Your true beauty lies in your willingness to not only endure whatever comes your way, but to flourish and prosper because of those hardships.
I’ve been the director of this school for two years now and every day that I’ve spent with all of you, you’ve taught me something new. Whether it be a heightened perspective on life; a more compassionate demeanor; the value of comic relief; or to just not take yourself so seriously; you all have a wisdom beyond what any classroom or school can teach you.
Bring that wisdom with you wherever you go – it’s the type of intelligence that guides you to your life purpose and lands you alongside your perfect tribe of people. It’s the kind of knowledge that only comes from seasoned life experience – of taking risks, falling down, picking yourself up, and then picking yourself back up again. Never doubt the voice inside of you, steering you to your next destination.
I began this letter with the word conventionality. None of you who are graduating this year are conventional; you are in fact, the farthest thing from ordinary.
This is your superpower. Do with it as you may.
I encourage you to always strive to be different; to embrace the totality of who you are and all that makes you stand out from the rest. Always be yourself, even if that self is far removed or detached from those around you - always stay true to you. If you always stay true to yourself, then you’ll never be disappointed and you’ll always attract to you the best people, experiences and opportunities meant for you.
It’s with a bittersweet demeanor that I wish you farewell. The school will not be the same without all of you, but I am so incredibly proud of all that you came to the school with, all that you are and all that you are going to be. I know each and every one of you is capable of having a beautiful life.
Set your sights high. Go after all that you want. Be different. Stand out from the rest. Use your inner wisdom to guide you to wherever you want go. And always be yourself.
Everything else will fall into place after that.