Recently I was asked by a Woodland Hills School Board Member to give the commencement speech, I accepted, rearranged my work schedule, and then recently the superintendent rescinded the offer. That doesn’t mean that the students aren’t going to get said speech. I even thought things through to the point of sending the speech in early as requested so the ASL interpreters could be prepared. I don’t believe in letting words go to waste and every moment is a learning opportunity. Here’s the speech that Woodland Hills Senior High School Graduates would’ve gotten if the administration wouldn’t have emailed me the week of commencement to inform me that they “were not going forward with a keynote speaker this year.”
I don’t question the administration’s back and forth because I’m an optimist and my joy isn’t tied to opportunities but instead it’s tied to the work that I do in the community as it speaks for itself.
Congrats Senior Class of 2022!
Good evening and congratulations Class of 2022.
Take a breath! Breathe! I’m here to give you a bit of encouragement and assure you that you’re doing great.
You all deserve an enormous pat on the back because I’ve been in your shoes in this very place. It feels like it was just yesterday. I graduated from Woodland Hills in 2007 and I’m not going to lie, I don’t remember who gave my commencement speech. I just remember being late and racing down the halls in my heels rushing to get to the lineup. I do know that the person that gave my commencement speech wasn’t a mayor at 29 with 14 books published on behalf of herself and others at the age of 33. I walked off that graduation stage both joyful and terrified. Every graduation stage I’ve walked across has terrified me and that’s a good thing. Change is terrifying.
For some reason, we put pressure on ourselves at this moment. We think that we have to have it all figured out and I’m here to tell you to maybe not do that. Give yourself some grace. I found myself constantly mapping out my future and learned that life tends to laugh at you when you least expect it. I just knew that I was going to graduate from Woodland Hills and go to college and be a writer. I became so many things once I accepted that life was going to constantly change and being flexible enough to be ready for it makes life a little easier. Back in flight attendant training my instructor Alejo used to tell us to, “be flexible like palm trees” and even though I’m no longer in that field that’s advice to take everywhere rather you’re 30,000 feet in the air or on the ground.
Change is not comfortable and accepting that you will never have it figured out lightens the load. I wish the speaker during that 2007 commencement would’ve looked in the crowd and told us to take a breath. That feeling that you have in the pit of your stomach can only be described as anticipation. You’re anticipating change and you kind of know what’s next but you question if you’re up for it. I’m here to tell you that it will be okay even when it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be okay. Embrace who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow but while you’re planning for tomorrow don’t forget that you need to get through right now to be wherever it is that you want to be. If you don’t know where that destination is quite yet it’s okay. At 18 you don’t need to map out the rest of your life because most likely things do not go as planned and from my experience, that’s for the best. Life is an adventure for those willing to lean in and cling to the growing moments that make us uncomfortable.
Before you leave here understand that you will never have your life one hundred percent figured out and if you do you are in trouble because having it figured out means you’re not learning anymore and what is life if it’s not a learning experience. Not being open to these vital learning experiences puts us at risk of getting in our own way of the opportunities that we need. If you meet someone convinced that they know everything run the opposite direction because you are who you hang out with and there’s nothing worse than someone who isn’t willing to grow.
I’m a collector of quotes and during one of my many pit stops in life, while I was briefly a flight attendant my instructor would play motivational videos. One of my favorite quotes from the motivational videos is an Alan Watts one. He said, “A completely predictable future is already the past. You’ve had it. That’s not what you want.”
We’re human, we don’t really want predictable on this journey called life. We just want to spend peace wisely, create a wonderful group of friends, and do something that we actually love.
I challenge you to take a deep breath and take them often. Don’t beat yourself up over your failures and mistakes because that means you learned something. Give yourself grace. Accept change and get out of your comfort zone, accept your flaws so that no one can use them against you, and don’t stop learning.
Congratulations Class of 2022 I’m rooting for you.