Culmination Address for the Class of 2018

Each year I write an original oratory in the style of a graduation speech for my students. Here is this year's version. 

What Will You Do Now? 

Now: a family car ride. 
Yesterday, I was stuck in traffic. You know what that’s like. I was trying to get my kids home from swim lessons after a long day. We were tired and traffic was West LA-horrific. I was seeking out some magic path to get us home a little faster while Gabe screamed from the back seat, “Go, cars, go!” and Kiara complained about “Too many people.” I was anxious to get us home, but took a deep breath, knowing we would have to wait it out. I could’ve complained along with them, honked the horn, or continued to find another way. Or we could sing along to “Un Poco Loco” with the windows down. We could do our best to enjoy the drive.

Time is a strange thing. I remember when you all were in the sixth grade. You were smaller then, and your eyes hadn’t yet seen many of the things they’ve seen now. The world seemed different, then: a little bit simpler, a little less divided, a little less complicated.

Now, three years later, I have had the chance to teach and coach many of you, to read your stories, essays, novels and poetry, and you have three years of learning from teachers, time with friends on field trips and in classrooms. But what will you remember most?

Author Ruth Ozeki in her novel, A Tale for the Time Being writes, “I have a pretty good memory, but memories are time beings, too, like cherry blossoms or ginkgo leaves; for a while they are beautiful, and then they fade and die.”

That is what I’m thinking about today.  How we can cherish memories of middle school, or moments stuck in traffic with my young children, knowing their beauty will quickly fade away? How can we find peace in the moment and still hold our memories close?

Ozeki also writes, “In the time it takes to say now, now is already over. It’s already then.” Now. Now. Now. Three moments just passed from now to then, and with each breath, each now, our lives are transformed into memories.

In all of these nows, how can we make the most of our lives? Do we procrastinate by playing video games or scrolling through an endless Instagram feed? Do we go for a run, shoot a few extra shots, rehearse that speech a couple more times? Do we put finishing touches on a project before it is due or buckle down to study for a test?

The answer: I don’t know. That is up to you. Your nows, all of the moments of your life, are yours. Hopefully you used a few of those nows to think about who you are, what you believe and love, and what truly makes you happy. Not what pleases your parents or teachers or friends, but what will you give you joy in the end.

Steve Jobs says, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

I hope that is something you spend your nows doing, because that is something I have learned from all of you. I love the Class of 2018 because you come from so many different perspectives, so many different experiences and there is no way I could tell any of you how to live your lives. The only life I can live is my own.

Charles Bukowski says, “Your life is your life/know it while you have it./You are marvelous/the gods wait to delight in you.”

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