I want to start off by saying that I’m really not that qualified to be delivering a graduation speech. I’m not the valedictorian or the salutatorian. I was never the captain of anything, nor did I win anything that would entitle me to speak to you all. I’m not here to try and tell you what the meaning of life is, because frankly I haven’t figured that out yet for myself. What I do know, however, is that there is a reason why I am here. There is a reason why we are all here. And I want you to keep that in mind throughout these next few minutes, few months, and even the next few years.
As we approach this next chapter in our lives, and enter what I guess is considered the “real world,” we will all be faced with trying to figure out we are meant to do. Maybe it is to get a degree, find a stable job, perhaps have a family, and then count down the days until retirement. Or maybe it is to do more than that.
We all have this idea of success,and how that is the ultimate goal. But what is success? Is it measured by the amount of commas in your bank account? The amount of cars in your driveway or how many homes you have? Is it having your name recognized or your face seen by millions? Is it…being happy?
And maybe it is my normalness that qualifies me to deliver this message. I am not a leader of the class of 2018, I am a member of the class of 2018. And although I don’t really seem to know what success is myself, I do know that at the end of my life, when it flashes before my eyes, it is up to me to make sure that it is worth watching.
Now you are all probably pretty excited to get away for awhile, whether in college or elsewhere, experience new things, and finally find yourself. In the midst of all that, there will be days when you are sitting in your dorm room, or wherever you may be, wishing that you were back at school, sitting next to the people that you grew up with. You are going to wish that you knew when it would be the last time you sat with your friends in the cafeteria, or around a table in the library. You will wish that you did not spend so much time worrying. Worrying about the way your hair looked, or if your outfit matched, or what other people thought of you.
Because these are the days that we’re allowed to be “crazy teenagers.” Where we can dance just because we feel like it and sing at the top of our lungs in the car with the windows down without a care in the world.These are the good old days that make our lives worth living.
And I cannot stress to you all enough that we are not going to be young forever. Life is short. And I won’t be the first to admit that throughout high school I’ve made mistakes. But we all have. And despite all of those times that I did mess up or embarrassed myself, I would not do anything differently because there is no better time than right now to completely dive head first into life.
I mean that is what we are all here graduating for right? They are finally letting us go, letting us free, if you will, to just completely and absolutely mess up. And that is what they don’t tell you as you are about to enter college or wherever it is that you’re going: It is not always going to be easy. You are going to fall down and face disappointment many times, but that’s why you get back up and you embrace every single second of it.
So don’t be afraid to live a little, and to go after your dreams. Because if you can fail at something that you don’t love, then you might as well take a chance at what you do love. And do not wait until it is too late to wish you could go back and live the life you always wanted.
One day you might wish that you danced more while you still had the health, or that you loved more while your friends were still by your side. I’ve learned that in our final moments it will not be the things we did in life that we regret, but rather the things we did not.
With that in mind, do not leave your graduation thinking that the best days of your life are over, rather they have just begun.
Someday, and I don’t know when that will be, you will wonder if you laughed enough, if you smiled enough, saw enough, traveled enough, experienced enough. If you told everyone in your life that you loved them enough, if you really could say “okay” I’ve done enough. I’ve lived.
When I told all of you to keep in mind that there is a reason why we’re all here, well It is more than just to send off the class of 2018. It is to celebrate this amazing, unpredictable, and messy, but absolutely wonderful thing called life. And while we still may not not know exactly what it means, I would have to guess that it must be that life is not something that has meaning. It is something that we give meaning to.
So to the class of 2018, I would like to congratulate all of you on completing this chapter, and I encourage you to move triumphantly onto the next. Here’s to many more years, many more mistakes, many more lessons, many more laughs, and many more memories.1