If I gave a Commencement Speech

It's sort of a coincidence and also not a coincidence at all that this post will bear some semblance with graduation speeches. I first got the inspiration for this before graduations began, and then pushed it/postponed it/forgot about it/life happened and I was like well, what better time than now?

It also might be a little bit contradictory to what you would hear a commencement speaker say. I actually love listening to commencement speeches. Think of some of the greatest ones: arguably the most famous one by Steve Jobs in 2005 at Stanford; the one by Barack Obama at Howard last year; J.K. Rowling at Harvard; John Legend at UPENN in 2014; Shonda Rhimes' return to her alma mater Dartmouth; Oprah at Harvard in 2013; Jim Carrey; and of course most recently, Will Ferrell at USC.
I have not only watched them, I have written about some of them. And some of these are my absolute favorite. They all charge you, albeit with different methods, to strive to become a better you. And that's absolutely amazing. But sometimes as with other aspects of life, they place too much burden on these young graduates to: follow their hearts, find themselves, change the world, find their passions, find what you love, not settle for anything less than the absolute best. All of which are great advice if they weren't so...vague. I like Adam Grant's analysis best, too much or too little of everything is never good. I am and have always been averse to such vague, pithy sayings that sometimes paralyze people into inaction instead of motivating them. See for instance, the myth of a dream job.

"People often say this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not what someone finds, it's something one creates." - Thomas Szasz

If I was ever to give a commencement speech it would go something like:

People are often bugged down with finding their passion, and waiting to hear from their heart as if beneath them lies the answer and secrets to all of earth. Yet nothing is more false. As I have often mentioned, there are some very few people born with an innate desire and longing for one particular thing. From the moment these ones entered this world, they KNEW without a doubt what they would become and have worked towards it since then. The rest of us are not so lucky. The majority of us have to pull ourselves by our bootstraps; work hard, grab opportunities when they come along, and trust God's grace. In other words, we really are just winging it.

So let's dissect some of these popular sayings, shall we?

Follow your heart.

Don't. I mean of course listen to your intuition. Trust your guts, whatever that means for you. But like my pastor recently mentioned, "just because feelings are real doesn't mean they are right." He further said, "God's definition of man's heart isn't very trustworthy".
"The heart of man is desperately WICKED."
"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (NIV)
Yeah, you don't want that guiding you. We as human beings are so bloody fickle and we fluctuate so much, that it's not very reliable to just make life-altering decisions based on how you feel. Seriously this one works for career as much as it does romance. I would instead pray hard and trust God's will to be done. While doing that, I will remain practical and make decisions based on my circumstances and situation. You can't and probably shouldn't quit your job and travel if you can't afford it. Even God said to count your cost before building. That being said, faith is not rational, but there is a peace that surpasses human understanding. So while you shouldn't be unrealistically idealistic, you still need to trust that peace you feel. But don't sit around waiting for your heart to talk to you, please. In the words of my fictional shero, Cristina Yang, hearts are organs with a main job of pumping blood and supplying the body with oxygen; they don't talk.

Change the world.

Oh Honey! You can not. You are not God. Can you do your absolute best to contribute to a better world? Best believe that. But can you, lil ol' you singlehandedly change this crazy, crazy world? NO. It's simply impossible. Do your best, but refrain from inflating your ego so much that you begin to think your work is what would change this world for the best. No.

Find your passion.

This one has been turning heads since forever. We are typically a mesh of many several things. I for instance, love a good book, I love politics, I love enlightening debates, I love to write, I'm intrigued by people's minds, I love listening to personal stories, I also wonder a lot about how a child is formed in the womb, but I also like pretty dresses, but I also wonder how extremely difficult brain surgeries are, I'm one of the most curious persons I know, and of course I like social justice. And these are just SOME of the things I like.  I don't have a passion; I'm interested in so many things, it makes me dizzy just to think about them. Most people are. The God that made us is a helluva creative one. People (and I used to be this way too) get so worried if they don't find their passions, they would wither and die a slow death. Is it easier to do what you already enjoy? I think so. But you can also find something you are remotely interested in and work your ass off, so much it becomes a passion. If you look at some of my favorite things, you find I could have been a psychologist, news anchor, teacher, doctor, fashion designer, author etc. All of which I probably could excel in. That's how life is: God gives us an array of choices. Pick one and run with it.

Be yourself.

This one is tricky. Of course genuineness is always appreciated. But the truth is, sometime you sucks. You might have a terrible character, suffer a great deal from low self-esteem, be lazy, be hateful and vile, be incredibly selfish, know nothing. In these cases do NOT be yourself. Learn to be better. Do better. Be a better person; spouse; child; sibling; relative; friend; employee; boss; citizen. Be better.

So that's my advice: Be flexible. I don't care if Jesus himself told you what exactly to do in life, be flexible about achieving it. Be open to Option B always! If you look closely at Jobs' speech, there is a pattern: he tried different things, failed at several points; and kept DOING. And the best part of his speech, I think, is the emphasis on not being able to connect the dots looking forward, but only by looking backwards. It never ever makes sense looking forward. Now interpretations of this post will vary. You should put in mind though that I mostly wrote this as a person of faith; a person who keeps God center in her life. Not everyone is this way and I sorta understand. The fundamentals are the same however. There is a mystery to life, and you need this mystery; it's a part of life. You need not worry about figuring everything out; also a staple of life. It's a lie that everything works out for everyone; it doesn't. But if it doesn't, it's seldom because they didn't receive a blazing light from heaven displaying instructions on how to live. Life is just weird like that sometimes, in that you can do everything right and still get it wrong. I'm sorry about that. But as you will find out, human beings are wired to weather storms and come out strong. We have an extraordinary amount of resilience in us. Always remember that. Remember also, that to have a remarkable career is to work remarkably hard. Please, please, please do not let this detract you from dreaming big. No. Dream big, just remember to wake up and actually do.



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