I know some of you are nostalgic today and filled with excitement and perhaps uncertainty at what the future holds. Which makes me wonder: What piece of wisdom can I steal from one of the great theologians of the world that will somehow ease your transition from high school into the real world?
Ferris Beuller's Day Off is a teen comedy made in 1986. In the film Ferris, played by Matthew Broderick, is just a month of graduating high school - a position not un-similar to our own. There is a motto that Ferris lives by, the line became quite famous and coincidentally applies to all of us here today, even you Miss Cantle. The line is: "Life moves pretty fast sometimes. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it."
18 years on and those words still resonate. In a short time "after" our graduation, we will be living the fast-paced uni life, or entering the work force, or doing just about anything to avoid 'growing-up'. We will be absorbed in the freedom of determining our own life and consumed with dreams of tomorrow. But, if you become so focused on the road ahead, you will ignore the journey along the way and lose the electrifying experience of the moment.
Actually, it really is quite exciting for me to be giving a graduation address; it's actually been a life long dream of mine. When I was in kindergarten - this is true - I wrote a speech for the day that I was going to graduate, however there aren't really any speech making opportunities at a kindergarten graduation. So, if you'll indulge me I'd like to read a portion of that speech. This is the actual speech from 13 years ago. "Fellow students, as we sit here today listening to that classic Guns n' Roses tune which will definitely stand the test of time, I would like to make several predictions for what the future will hold. I believe that one day a simple man with large, bushy eyebrows will rule the land. He will lack political skill, but will lead on the sheer strength and the moral authority of the president of the US. I believe that one day the media will pay more attention to who was voted off a nation wide talent show rather than the newly elected prime minister. I believe that gaming technology will not surpass the awesomness of my Sega Megadrive, nor will there be a better game than Sonic the Hedgehog. And finally, I believe that one day my brain will become larger and smarter than any other human being's ever before." Then I had a section on the sordid lives of the toys from Play School, but you don't need to hear about that.
The point is that no matter how clear your vision of the future may be, there is no sure way of knowing how it is all going to turn out. It is possible that ten years from now you could find yourself working a dead-end job that you hate, wondering what happened to your life. The best way I believe to avoid such a predicament is to enjoy the now, savour every moment and every experience.
As a four year old all I wanted to do was be done with school and begin living like a grown up. Yet over a decade later I now know that being a grown up can be really, really scary, some might say petrifying. So, rather than taking the steps toward growing up I've decided to go to university and postpone adulthood for a few more years. In doing so I hope to experience the things that the world only offers to the young and irresponsible. At some point however I know I will have to become an adult. Although this will be a sad day I'm pleased that I will be able to say that I stopped and looked around for a while; that I took the time to build a plethora of moments and memories rather than running full speed ahead.
Life is about experiencing the moments, not about final destinations. We have come to believe that when we get to those destinations our dreams will come true, and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. We impatiently pace, waiting to accomplish the next goal.
"When I get to uni..."
"When I graduate from uni..."
"When I get a promotion..."
"When I buy that shiny car..."
"When I've paid the mortgage..."
"When I retire, I shall live happily ever after."
Sooner or later we must realize there is no final destination, no one place to arrive at once and for all. Ironically though, as I wrote this I found myself beginning to panic about what the future had in store for me. I am seventeen. I am just days away from finishing high school, and supposedly this means that I'm an adult. I don't feel anything like an adult - not even a young adult. I have no idea how to go about furnishing a house or creating a successful career or any of that other 'grown-up' stuff, and I don't think I will suddenly gain this cardinal knowledge as my senior certificate is handed to me on graduation day. Tell me, have I missed something? Was I away the day they handed out the official adult handbook? If so, is it too late to get an extra copy?
Despite my panic-stricken state I had a revelation. It was a profound moment in which time stood still and the faint sounds of inspirational panpipes echoed through my mind. I realized that it didn't matter if I had missed out on the official handbook because I already had one - in the lessons I'd learned from friends and family and teachers, the interests and passions they'd sparked, the goals they'd pushed me to set and the dreams they'd helped me create. Once again, the words of Ferris Beuller ring true, because it is in pausing to appreciate the journey that we learn the most. It was in stopping to look around that I saw the bigger picture of graduating.
Graduation isn't just a time to celebrate the end of an era or rejoice in our newfound independence. It is also a time to remember the journey.
The people you met; the friendships gained and the friendships lost; the late nights of cramming; the shrill sound of your alarm clock at 7 am on a Monday morning; Mr Spence's night time 'astronomy club;' that uncomfortable scraping across you nose when using those one-ply, non-Kleenex tissues from the office; the shrill sound of your alarm clock at 7:10 am; the feel of an un-ironed uniform; the way the teachers preached 'unity' and 'bonding' to us on grade 8 camp and then separated us for grade 9 camp; Mr. Doig's flair for fashion; the shrill sound of your alarm clock at 7:20 am; the evolution of punishment from pink slip to lunchtime detention to....ahh....well nothing; the emu parades; the shrill sound of your alarm clock at 7:30 am; the way Mr Devlin always knows the juiciest gossip before anyone else and then shares it with his classes; the soggy sandwiches and warm poppers; the shrill sound of a parent screaming at you to "get out of bed or you'll be late for school," or the 'ding-dong' of the bell.
Sometimes I really hate that bell. I just don't care for it at all, not the ding, not the dong and not the ding-dong. It rings whenever the it feels like without ever stopping to think that maybe half past eight in the morning is too early to be badgering people. And then it rings again, as if it wasn't painful enough the first time. It's like a person standing there jabbing you in the arm over and over and over and over. Does it ever consider my needs? No, it just rings away, no thought for anybody but itself. (Exhale deeply before continuing.) Well, now that I have expressed 12 years of repressed rage towards the school bell I should probably return to my speech.
In these final moments before we graduate there are some thoughts that bring comfort when I (make crying/whimpering noises) begin to tear up. I become ecstatic just knowing that I will never have to do algebra or calculus again if I don't want to, that no one will care whether my shirt is tucked in or not, or that I will never, ever have to participate in another emu parade in my life.
The true joy of life is the journey. Don't become obsessed with calculating the steps to achieve goals. Instead, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less, and enjoy the presence of the people around you. Life must be lived as we go along. Experience the moments alone, experience the moments with others, but more importantly, share those experiences with all those who you come to love.
We are now eight minutes closer to the point where we will cross to the other side of graduation. The point where the "before" becomes the "after." In these closing seconds I would like to remind you that life does indeed moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. Thank you.