On Saturday I addressed the departmental graduating class at my Alma mater. It was such a scary, exciting honor. I think I sweated off most of my makeup in the process. Stress sweat is no joke, ya’ll. Anyway, I worked so long and hard on the speech that I thought I’d share it with you all too. I wrote it with English graduates in mind, but I think it could be applicable and inspiring to anyone. Here it is in all it’s glory…
Thank you for that introduction. Like my introduction stated, my name is Melanie and I am currently a librarian. As a librarian, I make a lot of lists. My lists usually include book and database recommendations for certain subjects. But today I want to share a list with you all that I wish I could have shared with myself on my graduation day here at ECU six years ago.
One. Even the worst case scenario usually isn’t so bad.
When I was first asked to do this speech, I must admit I didn’t really want to do it. When I’m presented with a new opportunity, I always imagine the worst case scenario. Ok, so what’s the worst case scenario for this speech? I bomb it and then I go home and binge-watch YouTube videos of cute cats to cheer myself up. My life isn’t going to be that different. Imagining the worst case scenario sounds like an incredibly negative thing, but it isn’t– it’s empowering. When opportunities present themselves, imagine the worst case scenario, then say yes and agree to do it anyway. Even the worst case scenario usually isn’t so bad. You’ll live. You’ll grow, and if it goes badly, you can always console yourself with YouTube videos of cute cats.
Two. We are enough.
Another fear that I had when I was presented with this amazing opportunity is that I’m an impostor. I haven’t accomplished nearly enough to give a commencement speech! That’s for important people. Sure, I help people find the information they need every.single.day. I’ve saved many a research paper from the pitfalls of a Google search. And I teach doe-eyed freshman the wonders of databases. But, that’s not special enough. I don’t have the credentials to make a speech. We all need to stop feeling like an imposters, myself included. I am here for a reason. You are here for a reason. We worked hard. We deserve this. We are enough.
Three. Don’t ever be afraid to be the most positive person in the room.
When I got over my fears of giving this speech and actually shared my excitement, a few people in my life doubted my qualifications. It’s unfortunate, but there are so many negative people in this world. They are negative because they’re unhappy with their job or their marriage or their lives. It’s not your fault they are unhappy. Don’t perpetuate their negativity. Don’t be friends with negative people and don’t even surround yourself with negative people. Negativity is toxic and it spreads like wildfire. To keep those negative thoughts at bay, keep a gratitude journal. Each night write down three positive aspects of your day. I’ll help you out with your entry for today: 1. You get to wear a killer robe. 2. You are alive. 3. And today you graduated from college! We all have so much to be thankful for. Don’t let the Negative Nancies talk you out of your dream or turn you into one of them. Don’t ever be afraid to be the most positive person in the room.
Four. Harness jealousy into something positive and proactive.
Much of the negativity in this world stems from jealousy. I have small pangs of jealousy each day. I’m jealous of all of you, right now because you’re at such an important cross roads in your life and I would love to do it all over again. The standard advice on jealousy will tell you that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. We’ve all heard that advice, but that doesn’t make the jealousy go away. Instead we need to harness that jealousy into something positive and proactive. Our jealousy needs to propel us to run faster, to be a better writer, to change what we don’t like and live the life of our dreams.
Five. If you don’t have a dream, that’s OK.
It’s OK in life to not know what you are doing. I sure as hell didn’t know what I was going to do with my English degree. But that’s the great thing about an English degree. It gives you the skills for success. (Take that relatives who think my English degree is worthless!) English majors know how to research and we know how to write. We know how to form ideas and present them in a logical manner, but we’re also dreamers. It might take you years to discover your dream. And that’s ok. Your dream might change over time and your dream might even be so new and strange that you have to forge your own dream. Not having a dream is ok. Just don’t ever forget to dream.
Six. But please know that those dreams alone aren’t enough, you also have to turn your dreams into actions.
Simply dreaming isn’t enough. Achieving those dreams, that’s what’s going to be harder than you ever imagined. You’ve got the haters to contend with, there’s that self-doubt we’ve talked about, and not to mention, you’re going to see a million other people on the Internet living your exact dream. (That Internet life is a facade, by the way.) Make some time-sensitive goals, work on your dreams a little bit each day and turn your dreams into actions.
Seven. The hardest part of achieving dreams is having faith in yourself. At times, you’ll have to drudge through that dream.
All projects at one point or another are going to suck. It’s going to be a deep, dark pit of despair. And at least once and sometimes on a daily basis, taking on that project and living that dream is going to feel like the worst decision ever. Don’t let yourself talk you out of your dream. Don’t let a little snag discourage you. There are so many ridiculous obstacles in life, jump through those idiotic flaming hoops and come out on the other side. Drudge through that dream.
Eight. Bad jobs are still useful jobs.
We all go through jobs in our lifetime that feel like every day we go to work is another day we lose another part of our soul. But bad jobs, even on our worst days are teaching us something. Those jobs are teaching us to have a better attitude, to be friends with our coworkers and to smile when you have to remake that latte for the 3rd time. You won’t be stuck in that bad job forever, but for the time being, make the best damn latte you can make. Bad jobs are still useful jobs.
Nine. Travel is the only thing you can buy that will make you richer.
Travel gives us intellectual enrichment that the classroom never could. (Sorry, professors.) The world is full of amazing sights, sounds, tastes and smells that you will never know until you get out there and experience them all. Travel now. Right now. Before you get too old to do it. Not to be a downer, but I’ve experienced a lot of death in the past year. Most of the deaths were anticipated, and each one of the people, in one way or another, told me to travel now. To see things while I am still young because you and I never know what is waiting for us in old age. There’s no need to go into debt to fund your travel, but don’t let finances stop you either. Make travel a priority in your life and save your pennies for it. Travel is the only thing that you can buy that will make you richer.
Ten. Natural talent is a fallacy, what’s more important is failure and resilience.
What’s generally accepted as natural talent is a fallacy. 99 percent of people out there aren’t naturally talented at anything. There’s those special unicorns who are prodigies but you and I aren’t those people. We have the things that we like and we become better at those things, but most of those people who we think of as “talented” just tried and failed hundreds of times before someone deemed them talented. They wrote a lot of bad poetry, or drew a bunch of bad pictures or invented a lot of bad inventions. But unlike most people, they had the guts to try and fail time and time again. Talent, as we know it, is a fallacy, what’s more important is failure and resilience. And remember if you fail, you can always console yourself with cute videos of cats.
And thank you blog readers for letting me share.