Guiding Graduates

A Commencement Address from the President:

“...When we met in April, several of you mentioned that you were afraid of making the wrong decision, specifically, choosing the wrong college major—essentially, putting all of your focus, time, and resources (as well as your parents’ resources) into one thing only to find out that that one thing is not actually the one thing you want to do for the rest of your lives. You’re not alone in that fear. Many people worry about the consequences of making a mistake—it’s one of those (nearly) universal fears. But, I’m going to give you the key to unlocking that fear for the rest of your life. The mistake about a mistake is thinking that it’s a mistake. Did you hear that? The mistake about a mistake is thinking that’s it’s a mistake. Because it’s not—if you learn from it.

Our culture doesn’t teach us much about how to deal with failure—let alone that failure is totally, completely okay—which is why we have the tendency to view mistakes as failures, as setbacks, and even as regrets. But in reality, it’s just information that we can use to recalibrate—and in fact, so-called “mistakes” and even full-fledged failures can be incredibly clarifying. They can provide us with a foundation of information on which we can make a better, more informed, more aligned decision that we may never have come to without bumping up against that situation in the first place. The challenge arises when we bring in the notion of shame—when we beat ourselves up for having stumbled, instead of looking at the obstacle as an opportunity to try again. If you start your adult lives knowing that you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to fail, and you’re going to succeed—you’ll be more willing to try new things, explore new mediums for your art, and express yourself freely, all while being less afraid.

To bring this back around to choosing a major, chances are good—I mean, like, really, really good—that in 10, 20, or 40 years from now you won’t be doing the exact same thing you thought you’d be doing today. It could be even better—some amazing amalgamation of the skills you accumulate along the way that you couldn’t possibly have predicted looking forward. After all, the path only makes sense in reverse. So, there’s no concrete way to know how this next step—whether it be studying science or dance, astrophysics or forensic chemistry—will lead you in your journey. It’s normal to fear the unknown, but the unknown is where the fun happens; it’s where the magic happens. It’s where possibility exists. So, make it a practice to leap into the unknown whenever you can—each time you do, you’ll expand your comfort zone just a little more. And the best things happen right on the other size of that comfort zone.

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To the class of 2018, I wish you the ability to create beauty in the world unfettered. I wish you all the happiness and success you so deserve. I wish you relationships with friends and family that support your unfolding. Above all, I wish you a wonderful life.”