Graduation Weekend is Making Me Sentimental

There are few things I love in life more than a good graduation speech. In fact, I hope one day to be asked to deliver one. A lofty goal, I know. This speech Steve Jobs delivered at Stanford in 2005 is full of some of my favorite quotes of all time. Aaron Sorkin gave the commencement address at my alma mater this weekend. I’m kind of sad he wasn’t the speaker at my graduation ceremony, but that’s neither here nor there. As you can imagine, Mr. Sorkin had many interesting things to say. You can read the whole speech here, but a few of my favorite quotes include:

“You’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.”

Another good one: “What eventually makes you happy may not be what you think you want right now. Don’t limit yourself.”

And “We want to be able to earn a living doing something we love.”

Aaron hits it on the head for college students and recent grads. I know I love reading about people I admire, and finding out how they got to where they are. But these types of stories often dedicate three pages to the person’s current success and quickly

Feeling sentimental

gloss over the times when that person was broke, hating his/her job, living with his/her parents, etc. This makes it hard to have perspective about how long it actually takes to build a career, get your dream job, meet the love of your life, and get to where you truly want to be. Sometimes it feels like failure and struggle aren’t acceptable, when in reality these things are almost guaranteed if you want to get somewhere in life. The most successful people fail, but we tend to forget about that because now they’re successful and awesome. As long as you keep working and plugging away, you’ll get to where you want to be eventually. I think this is even more important in today’s “quickquickquick!” era. We have 100 web pages open at once. We read quick bursts of information on Twitter. We text instead of having long phone conversations. We eat quickly. Everything is fast. Therefore, a slow process or something that takes a long time seems every stranger. It’s not. It’s okay for success to take a while. Patience. Easier said than done, I know but…good to keep in mind.

I also completely agree with not limiting yourself. When I graduated school I thought all I wanted to do was be on TV. A series of random things happened and then I started this blog and now I realize writing is actually what I love. I still have an interest in TV, but it’s not my true passion. In a way, college teaches you to limit yourself. You have to choose a major and take classes within that major if you want to graduate on time. Not exactly ideal if you’re still trying to explore and “find yourself” and whatnot. But just because you majored in something in college, doesn’t mean you need to do exactly that after college. I was a Broadcast Journalism major in college. I work in social media during the day and do a lot of freelance writing. Same basic skill set, but not totally Broadcast Journalism. If I were a college professor, I’d emphasize this. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do while you’re in school, or even when you graduate. Give yourself time to figure things out. Learn basic, useful skills and find a way to make them work in a job you think would be fun or interesting. There’s too much pressure to have your life planned out at age 22. Just let things fall into place the way they’re supposed to. My dad has always told me what I’m doing at 23 might be very different from what I’m doing at 33 or 43. And I think that’s the way it should be. Makes things fun, you know?

Last point: we all want to be able to earn a living doing something we love. This is truly the center of everything. I never realized how important job satisfaction is until I started working. You literally spend most of your life at your job, if you hate what you’re doing then that is a bad situation. I’m not saying you have to take a job that makes you 100% happy. Jobs are hard to find. But you have to find a way to create happiness wherever you work. And if you have something you really, really want to do with your life, you have to take steps to get there or else you’ll never feel satisfied with yourself. If you really want to be an actress but you’re working in an HR department at some company, you will never be fully content. You have to try to make the acting thing work, even if it’s a slow process and you work a day job to support yourself.

Who was your graduation speaker? Did he/she offer any good advice? If you were to give a graduation address, what would you say?



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  1. I love this quote too because it’s so, so true:

    “You’re going to fall down, but the world doesn’t care how many times as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.”

    Unfortunately, our graduation speaker was away with the fairies. Either he was truly deluded or someone had a shotgun pressed against his back, warning him to be simperingly positive or else. The upshot of it was that we had nothing to worry about at all, that employers would be falling over themselves to employ us.

    Perhaps he wanted to boost our confidence, but I know I wasn’t the only one who felt immensely patronised. We did have something to worry about. Employers weren’t going to be falling over themselves to employ us. There was going to be a lot of hysterical arm waving and jumping up and down on the spot before we could get just one employer to so much as give us the time of day. We all knew that. The ones of us that he managed to convince were in for a huge shock and the ones of us that were under no illusions just felt like our time was being wasted. What we really needed to hear was honesty. We really needed to hear “Yes, the graduate jobs market is tough, but you’re tougher. Yes, it will be difficult, but difficult is not the same thing as impossible. Yes, you will fail on occasion, but there’s no human who doesn’t.”

    That, at least, would have left us with a positive outlook and the beginnings of a hard outer shell. Both are necessary and a good graduation speaker would know that.

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