Golda Meir once said, ‘Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.’ Today is the day we create ourselves. The decisions we make from now on will impact the rest of our lives, other people’s lives, the world. Every generation is handed the torch…
That was the beginning of the speech I had prepared for today. I spent the past three months writing it. You might have really liked it. The problem is, I didn't. It was full of pithy quotes from brilliant people and sage advice I’d gleaned from books, but it didn't feel very authentic. It’s stuff I’m supposed to say, not stuff I want to say. The truth is, I don’t have any answers for you today. All I have are questions because, like you, I don’t have a clue what’s ahead for us. I could tell you that the best is yet to come; time and tide wait for no one; you’ll accomplish great things; life is what you make it; we have the power to change the world; do what you love, the rest will follow; individuality is the key to success, blah, blah, blah. But you've heard it all before, and if you haven’t, it’ll probably roll right over you. Because, really, what does any of that mean to a high school senior? All you want to do is get out of here and start partying. Am I right?
I've spent the past six years at Freiburg working incredibly hard. And I did well. Super well in school. Better than all of you. I mean, I’m standing here, and you’re not, so I must have done something right. I certainly did everything I was supposed to do. And more. I never got a B, I aced my SATs, and got a full ride to a top college, but I spent all of my time at Freiburg in the library, not talking to anyone. I’m not sure that was the best way to go. When you over-prepare and micromanage everything, there’s no time for spontaneity. No time for life to play out. Life is something we have to experience, really feel, not just study for with books in a library. Learning is about so much more than school. If we’re too busy studying, we miss out on the experience. What I've only just realized is that I’ve been missing out. And I don’t want to do that anymore!
In the past twenty-four hours, I've learned more about myself and my potential than I learned in all my years at Freiburg. With my apologies to Headmaster Alvarez.
As I said, I don’t have a lot of advice. But I do have a few suggestions. Sometimes having no script, having no idea what is going to happen next, having no map, might be the way to go. Because life just happens, and when it does, how you handle it will teach you more about who you are than any class or test ever can. The best preparation for the rest of your life is, maybe, no preparation at all. Dive right in. Make mistakes. Break a few rules. Wing it.
Figuring out what you want comes from failing, and then trying again. It comes from questioning everything, falling in love, fighting the power, living without limits. It doesn't come from getting straight A’s, playing by the rules, and listening obediently.
I’m sure Headmaster Alvarez isn't exactly pleased with everything I’m saying. It’s not what he expected. It’s not what I intended. But let me just add, I’m not saying don’t plan for your future and don’t work hard. I’m just saying, don’t let that be all you do. Because that’s not enough. Trust me, I've been there. And I have no plans to go back. Things are happening right now, right here, and if you’re not in the mix, you’re missing out. Who’s with me?
So, kiss the girl. Buy the dress. Take a vacation. Join the circus. Order the fried frog legs. Try out for the play. Learn to snowboard. Do something that scares the shit out of you. Or something that makes you happy. Or something that makes you cry. Whatever it is, do something that makes you feel something. Because feeling nothing is no way to go through life.
I didn't invent the rainy day, man. I just own the best umbrella. That’s one of my favorite lines of all time. It’s from a movie called Almost Famous. I think what it means is that life is going to throw all kinds of stuff at you, good and bad. But all you can do is get out there and try to stay dry.
So get a good umbrella, class of 2012! You’re going to need it! And congratulations!
“I’m at architecture school at UCLA.”“Ooooh, I love architects. They have such big buildings.”Oh Lord, let the floor open up and suck me into the ground. Better yet, take Will.“Uh, not all of them are big. Some are quite small. It all depends on the client,” Juan says.“I’m sure yours are very, very big.”“Yeah, well, I’m still in school, so I’m not really building much other than models at the moment.” Poor Juan looks hideously uncomfortable.“I bet you’re really good with your hands, all that drawing and building.”
I’m gathering Kylie thinks that all it takes to capture an image is to point and shoot. That’s what everyone thinks. But there’s a lot more to it. It’s taken me years to frame things correctly. People assume you can’t take good pictures on an iPhone, but they’re wrong. Some of my best shots are on the phone.They’re raw and simple, and most of the time no one knows you’re taking a picture. It’s much better than the thousand-dollar Nikon my dad got me for Christmas. I don’t think I’ve used it in months.
Labels: Book Review, Stacy Kramer, Valerie Thomas