To my graduating Griffs

Canisius College, your comfort zone, source of friendship, bubble of forgivable mistakes and the home that fostered your growth and becoming is now taking a back seat. It’s nerve-wrecking, intimidating and at times emotionally draining. But above all else, graduation comes at a time that whether you realize it or not, needs to happen. And you’ll be glad it did.

Maybe you’ll have a job waiting for you, will volunteer for a year or move into a new apartment with old college buddies. Maybe you won’t.

It doesn’t matter. Because no matter what you do after you briskly walk across that graduation stage (and hopefully don’t lose a shoe), I can almost guarantee you that the following things will happen in the next year. And if they don’t, you should probably learn to live a little.

You’re going to fall in love with yourself. Maybe all over again if you’re already fond of the person you’re becoming. You’ll look back and realize that you made it this far and that’s a hell of a lot to be proud of. You’ll find pride in taking care of your body and want to eat healthy and stay in shape and it won’t feel like such a hassle. If you’re smart, you will stop comparing yourself to others. Embrace all of the wonderful things that make you different than the people who will sit beside you in identical caps and gowns. Those little quirks are what make you beautiful. To quote Dr. Suess, ‘There is no one alive who is Youer than You.’

You’ll make a total and complete fool of yourself (on many occasions). Good. Do it now. You have a nice little grace period where people will still forgive you for your mistakes because you’re young and naive. Whether your mistakes happen at work, with friends or with those you have a romantic interest in, trust me when I tell you that they are an absolute guarantee. Take advantage of it. They’ll be laughable later on.

You’ll spend money you know you shouldn’t. And while most people may disagree with me on this one, I hope you do spend enough to make you somewhat uncomfortable. One of my favorite quotes is, ‘spend your money because you can’t take it with you.’ I’ll give you three guesses as to how much I have in my savings account, but you’ll probably only need one. Don’t say “no” to crazy opportunities and misguided adventures just because you’re too scared not to have a little financial cushion. If it means you survive off of macaroni and cheese for three weeks, so be it. You did it in college, didn’t you? The laughs you’ll share with friends and memories you’ll make will be worth it. I freaken promise you.

You will get frustrated with your job (or lack thereof.) Join the club. If you don’t have a job, keep looking. More importantly, keep networking. It pays off. If you do have a job, here are some facts: you have to earn your place and it often comes through long hours, work that you’re over-qualified for and a lot of tongue-biting to make people happy. But give it time. Because that initial job description is not set it stone. Be a go-getter. Shoot out a new idea. Your colleagues don’t like it? At least you tried. And if nothing else, use the position you have to leverage new connections and networking opportunities. There are possibilities everywhere, you just have to fight to see them sometimes.

You will likely question everything you stood for and believed in while in college: Let the uncertainty shake you up. If the questions and exploration of thought brings you back to the place you once were, then you are one consistent individual. If you end up somewhere new, embrace it.

Your group of friends will change. If this one makes you sad, then put in the effort to keep valued friends in your life. Catch up for lunch, call them, email them, or my personal favorite, send them an unexpected card. But here’s one thing to remember: don’t spend too much time mourning over the loss of those that will inevitably fade out of your life. If they taught you something about yourself or the world around you, take that as a positive reason for their path crossing yours and be at peace with it. Some people are just meant to remain a memory.

You will be astonished at how time continues to fly. It doesn’t slow down. The sooner you accept this and come to terms with it, the more you’ll learn to appreciate life for each beautiful moment you’re granted rather than all of the ones you no longer have control of.

Graduating college is a milestone in your life but don’t let it scare you. Find comfort in the fact that no matter where your next path leads you, you can always come back to Canisius and the fond memories that your education has privileged you with. The open arms waiting behind the doors of buildings that turned into second homes will always be available should you need them.

Commencent Ceremony
Canisius College Undergraduate Commencent Ceremony 2012

This is water

As a recent college graduate, and someone who was fortunate enough to give the undergraduate student commencement speech on behalf of my graduating class, I can vouch for two things: it is difficult to contrive a speech that will resonate with a large and diverse audience, and it is difficult to sit through a speech that does not. I stumbled upon the 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech and was so captivated by the message that I felt it necessary to share.

I promise you it is worth watching the short video in its entirety. You can find it at the bottom of this post. Here is a short excerpt:

“If you want to operate on your default settings then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff’s necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital T-True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. This, I submit, is the freedom of real education. Of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. That is real freedom … None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital T-Truth is about life before death.”