A graduation speech of a non-valedictorian

I’m taking a moment to be proud of myself. No reservations. No regard for modesty. Just complete and utter pride. We’re all entitled to one at least once in our lifetime. And I feel that this moment, right now, is my claim.

I will not deny the fact that I have never considered or even thought of the idea of me being unable to finish university. I was always confident that I would. But confidence does not always prevent pitfalls; determination does not always scare away obstacles. If anything, they attract more of those. I certainly had my overflowing share.

For one thing, I didn’t start out as confident as I had eventually become. While I was still in high school, some of my peers had already planned for their future. They had dream schools, they knew what they wanted to major in and they were dead set on pursuing that. I was never like that. Then there were people who preferred to collect options first before selecting a choice. I was never like that either. I figured having more options was directly proportional to having more regrets and what ifs. So while I felt really blessed to have been accepted by four out of the five universities I applied in, I was more terrified of the prospect of having to choose which one to attend because I didn’t want to be the person who made the wrong decision. In fact, I was so much of a coward that I kind of let everyone else decide for me. And they chose well. The only problem was their choice wasn’t the one I would have probably chosen for myself. I went along with it anyway – first pitfall.

You can’t expect to do great things in life by simply going along. What we can expect from following everyone else is becoming like everyone else. And I don’t know about you but I find that thought absolutely boring.

It wasn’t long before I realized how unhappy I’ve become. Sure, I was in a school that a lot would kill to get in to, but it was hard to still find that thought appealing when I was constantly feeling miserable. It took me two years to find the courage, firstly, to tell my parents that I was planning to transfer to a different and arguably less prestigious university and, secondly, to actually do it. I knew early on that not all my subjects would be credited and that I would graduate a year later than my batch, including my twin sister. I did it anyway because I was that unhappy. To this day, that decision remains one of the things I am most proud of myself for.

You see, what I’ve learned from that experience is just because this one thing is what’s best according to the world’s standard doesn’t automatically mean it’s what’s best for you. Sometimes, the best thing that could happen to you is also the worst thing that could happen to you. Sometimes, the best option can lead to the worst result and the worst one can make you a better person.

To be honest, I never entered college with the notion that it was all going to be about academics. That’s probably one of the reasons why I’m posting my ‘graduation speech’ on my blog instead of addressing my fellow graduates. Now that I’m officially done with it, I think it’s safe to say that my initial belief still holds true. Every valuable lesson I learned in college I didn’t learn from a textbook or lecture. I realized it’s not what I studied that I would need most in the future, it’s how I studied. It’s not simply about the people I became friends with, but more about how I chose which people to trust and how I treated everyone around me.

The most valuable thing I’ve taken from my five years in university is faith or, more specifically, dependence on my faith. I didn’t enter college with the strongest faith, that’s for sure. In fact, I spent my first year or so consistently testing God’s patience. Most of the time, yes, I did believe in God, but I just didn’t care. Then there were times when I’d doubt everything about Him. Over the years, I’ve seen a couple of friends lose their faith completely and I think the same thing almost happened to me had God not bitch slapped me (because, really, that’s what He did) at the exact moment I needed Him to. My relationship with God changed from being so formal and stoic to becoming personal and honest. I can’t even recall the exact number of times God came through and saved my behind from every possible and highly probable unfavorable scenarios because they’re just that many. I’ve never realized just how awesome He is until I got to college and experienced Him firsthand. God is The Man (figuratively speaking).

Definitely one of the biggest lessons my college experience has taught me is that when life hands you something that is less than what you deserve (life does that sometimes), you’re not obligated to put up with it. I’ve met a lot of people, wonderful people, who were undoubtedly given a difficult hand in life. Some had financial troubles, some had family problems. I didn’t have either. Most of my friends had both. And these people chose to rise above each and every difficult circumstance they’d find themselves in. There is always a choice. I can’t even begin to explain how much it pisses me off when people pout and say they did the things they did because they didn’t have a choice. Honestly, I think that’s a load of bull. We may not have control over everything that happens in our lives but we always have the power to choose how we react, how we deal, how we let it affect us.

I used to roll my eyes whenever someone older than me would say that college is about finding yourself. I’ve always found that idea too sappy and too sentimental for my taste, that is until I experienced it for myself. I now believe that saying to be quite true. It’s extremely hard to not lose yourself, to not disregard the principles you’ve been taught and to not intentionally and unintentionally make stupid immature mistakes every now and then during the first years of college. I think that’s a normal and, I guess, acceptable phase in the whole adventure of growing up. But we should always remember that’s just what it’s supposed to be – a phase. What happens after that is our defining moment. Do we learn from it or do we let it consume us? Do we come out of all this as merely a changed person or a better one?

So yes, I am proud of myself. Really really proud. Because I can tell you right now, with no doubt in my mind, with a sparkling clean conscience, with all the confidence in the world and with the goofiest and most genuine smile on my face, that I did learn and I did come out a much better person than I was going in to it.

My name is Kathryn. I am 22 years old and I just recently graduated with a degree in Journalism. And here comes the rest of my life.

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15 thoughts on “A graduation speech of a non-valedictorian

  1. kodonivan April 5, 2013 / 5:02 pm

    Great post. I can relate, but college graduation for me was 25 years ago. I wish you much success in life!

    • Kathryn G April 16, 2013 / 10:05 am

      Ha ha! It’s a good sign then that you can still relate, means you haven’t forgotten. Thank you! I wish you a wonderful future too 🙂

  2. KristalynDawn April 5, 2013 / 6:00 pm

    This is really interesting. You’ve finished college, congratulations! I’m just finishing my first year, and like you, I feel like life is coming. Maybe it’s already here. I don’t quite know. However, I feel an urge to share my thoughts and listen to those of other people.

    • Kathryn G April 16, 2013 / 10:04 am

      That’s a good thing. College is, in my opinion, a wonderful avenue to share your thoughts as well as hear others’.

      • KristalynDawn April 16, 2013 / 3:29 pm

        Most definitely! It works both ways.

  3. Black ' n Write Reviewer April 5, 2013 / 7:27 pm

    Congratulations 🙂
    It’s always nice to realize how much you’ve accomplished; like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
    Much happiness sent your way to your future endeavors.

    • Kathryn G April 16, 2013 / 10:02 am

      Thank you! It really surprises me how a bunch of people who I’ve never met yet can be happy for me. So thank you. 🙂

      • Black ' n Write Reviewer April 16, 2013 / 2:17 pm

        Seeing other people accomplish what they’ve set themselves out to do should make any person proud of one another. We wouldn’t be a right society if we can’t talk about ourselves and get some form of recognition (obviously this isn’t always the case), but education is one of those solid foundations we all need/deserve.

  4. societycommentator April 5, 2013 / 7:34 pm

    I had an employer say once that he (and other employers) liked to hire college graduates because they have learned how to think, Which is part of “finding yourself”. So I guess you are ready for the “real world”. Which it is because, no matter how you felt about it, the collegiate wiorld is very insulated.

    • Kathryn G April 16, 2013 / 10:01 am

      Yes, I agree with you. I’d say college gives you a glimpse of the bigger world but you’ll never really know what it’s like until you experience it for yourself.

  5. caroline April 5, 2013 / 11:31 pm

    I got shivers from this post! You go for it, your life is right in front of you and you really can do whatever you want!

    • Kathryn G April 16, 2013 / 9:59 am

      Yes, definitely. I’ve never been this excited about my future!

  6. mindomin April 6, 2013 / 11:27 am

    Congratulations! Of making your choice of changing university, finishing stuies, and the courage to say that you are proud.

    That’s a great graduation speech, thanks for posting. I wish you luck and happiness in your life as a journalist!

    • Kathryn G April 16, 2013 / 9:58 am

      Thank you very much! I wish you all the blessings in life as well. 🙂

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