My 2020 Commencement Speech

To the 2020 graduates:

I know, this isn’t what you expected.

But this is a truly critical time. The sun is shining again, the earth is still turning, and you are probably beginning to feel how real — very real — your future is.

There will be so many things that come up in your life and try to hold you back, even when you’re trying to celebrate a moment that you absolutely deserve. The thing that’s popped up right now, though, just happens to be affecting every human being in the world. And because of that, I want you to tell you this:

From this point on, do not let ‘Covid’ into your vocabulary.

Do not let it be your excuse.

Don’t let it muddy the waters of your future or confuse you about the opportunities that are still available to you, even when a potential employer says ‘we can’t, we’re still being affected by Covid.’

That’s their story. Not yours.

And whether it’s true or not, let them tell their story. But you do not have to claim that story for your own life.

Nothing has changed about what’s to come for you and your future, because you still need more than just a piece of paper to navigate it. You will have (many) more challenges that you can ultimately affect the outcome of, so keep moving forward. Always.

In this time, you are learning one of the most powerful feelings that you will experience many more times in your life. And that feeling is a win uncelebrated. But know that your wins are no less worthy or important when they happen, no matter the circumstances.

From this, you are learning that without recognizing a sense of accomplishment in yourself, without. celebrating your own wins, that external approval and acknowledgement will feel like the only thing that matters. But at the end of the day, it will rarely be the thing that matters at all.

Toot your own horn. Know your efforts, and take pride in them. Because that outside approval will not always be there — especially if you’re doing something big.

We can learn and achieve so many things in life, but the reason you’re here is so much bigger than that. It’s about living life fully, surrounded by the ones we love and the ones who love us. We know that we’ve found our people when they genuinely want to see us succeed, even if they don’t quite understand the journey it takes to get there.

You’re smart (you can prove it now!). So you know how it goes. When someone tells you not to do something, and you know you probably shouldn’t, don’t do it. But when someone tells you not to do something and you know in your gut that it’s the thing that sets you on fire, the thing you were put on this planet to do, take the chance. Do it anyway. Show the people looking out for you that you’re willing to put in the work to create something beautiful.

A couple more tips:

Sunscreen. Always.

Stop saying sorry all the time. You’re only making the word meaningless when you do. Instead, save it for when it matters.

If you’re too actively seeking a partner, they will never come. But the right person will never lose your phone number.

And finally, my husband and I were taking a walk recently. We saw a wreck. A young boy, hardly appearing old enough to drive, had hit two parked cars while driving home, drunk from likely the night prior. His mother, understandably and obviously upset, exclaimed:

‘Why are you doing this to me? You could be dead.’

And she’s right.

When you’re making a decision, you don’t always realize that you are making decisions for other people too. And when you think you’re doing the right thing by not asking for help, you are only hurting the people around you.

I don’t need to tell you that distracted driving is a poor decision. But know that your decisions are not just yours. You have the power of affecting others. So use that power in a positive way.

This is your moment. Own it. What we do with what has happened to us now is all that matters.

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