A senior’s commencement speech


By Kate Cullen

It’s difficult to imagine that four years have gone by this quickly, but somehow it’s true. If you ask a senior, most of them will tell you that they still feel like freshmen and that they’re not ready to be adults. But in two short weeks, our adulthood will be solidified in our commencement ceremony.

I do not have words of wisdom that will act as our roadmap to the next phase of our lives. And because I am not a multimillionaire who has achieved some great feat in business or otherwise, I am certainly not suited to be the commencement speaker. But if I had the opportunity to give the commencement speech for the class of 2014, it would probably go something like this:

Class of 2014, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Be afraid of the unknown that is slowly consuming all of you as you sit before me, nervously sweating, pondering what your next moves will be.

Be afraid of leaving the lives you have built for yourselves over the last four years because they will never be the same again. There will never be a time in your life when you will live with all of your best friends and order pizza at 2 a.m., unless you become one of those 40-year-olds who lives in their parents’ basement and eats away their feelings every Saturday night. 

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    Be afraid of returning home and living with your family again. They will most certainly revert back to the days of your high school youth and ask you when you are coming home each night.

    Be afraid of the job that you’re going to start. Or, be afraid of the job you don’t have and aren’t able to start. Both are equally terrifying and could send you into cardiac arrest. We have EMTs standing by.

    Be afraid of losing your friends to the miles of distance that will inevitably separate you. It will only become harder as life goes on to remain as close as you are now. Sure, you’ll have those weekend trips every other year where you drink too much and reminisce about the “good old days,” but it’ll never really be the same.

    Be afraid of the new responsibilities. Soon there will be a tsunami of paperwork full of insurance questions, bills and taxes — all of them in your name that you will have to deal with. You think you became responsible in college? That was a baby step. Be prepared because you’re about to be flung into adulthood. No parachute available.

    Be afraid of the future and all the uncertainties it will inevitably bring with it. Adulthood doesn’t come equipped with a crystal ball. 

    Whether you want to admit it or not, you are afraid. 

    Good — that’s how you should feel.

    Only through fear can we find the strength and courage to move forward beyond our pasts to create futures of our choosing. If you are afraid, that means you have passion — you cared for this University and the experiences you had here enough that you do not want to leave and begin anew.

    Of course you’re afraid to move back home, but think of all of the free food and the laundry that magically does itself. You’ll be ok, trust me.

    For those afraid of beginning a new job, you aren’t afraid because you don’t know what to do, you’re afraid because you know exactly what you have to do and are scared you might fail. But here’s the thing: you won’t. Deep down, you know you are not going to fail, so use that fear to go above and beyond.

    If you’re scared of the future and don’t know what you are going to do with your life, try everything and anything before you settle on something you aren’t passionate about. Give yourself the liberty to try different jobs, to travel to new countries and to live in different places.

    The fear of losing your friends is real. But if that’s your fear, you will put even more effort into keeping in touch with those you care about now. And hopefully, those weekend trips won’t happen every other year.

    There will be lunches and dinners in addition to trips where you drink too much. Just because you’re leaving college doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking.

    Fear is a gift, an opportunity to try every option before you decide on one.

    Life will be hard. There will be unexpected challenges at every turn, and you will face them the best you can. But knowing you’re afraid and consciously choosing to face that fear is better than not being afraid at all.

    Everyone is afraid; no one knows exactly what they’re doing or what lies ahead. We’re all just making it up as we go. Welcome to adulthood.

    These are the not so wise words I would tell the class of 2014. Congratulations to all of the seniors on their graduation, a truly amazing achievement. May your fear manifest into a passion and courage that allows you to have every joy life has to offer.

    Kate is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].