To the Class of 2014,
Although I am not one of the speakers at graduation this year, I feel that after such a memorable and fantastic experience as a member of the class of 2014, I owe a tribute to you, my family and friends, as we are now jumping into our next adventure.
I feel like a mom watching her kids grow up. Not that I want to take credit for who you are, but rather that I feel privileged to have gotten to see who you’ve become, what you’ve accomplished, and the behind-the-scenes of where life will take you. I feel that all of these last moments should be captured in pictures in the hopes that if we put it on film, maybe we’ll feel the days between now and college grow longer.
I’m so proud, yet so sad to know that we will be sent around the country; that you will be absent from my daily life for the first time. It’s been a pleasure (most of the time) spending every day with you for the last four years, some even longer. Your talents, character, and best and worst moments have shaped me, as we’ve shared so many of them.
As I watch you all zip your graduation gowns and wrap your chords around your collar, I cannot help but have flashbacks to when we were all complete strangers, pretty much disoriented, trying to figure out our schedules, and completely unaware of the adventure we would have together. You all have shaped me into the writer, artist, and mess that I’ve become. The thought of not seeing you all next semester makes me want to go back in time, maybe not to the beginning of junior year, but to freeze time before college applications, finals, and the sappiness of graduating became our daily reality. Although we are young, I feel that we have lived several lifetimes together. The sleepless nights and late-night projects and lake parties and final exams are all locked into a small infinity, one that we never imagined would really end like it will tomorrow, and one that I am grateful for.
Now, as I wait for the iron to warm up so I can smooth out the wrinkles in my navy gown, I can’t help but feel anxious for tomorrow morning when we will sit together, pretending not to cry, and laugh through the awkward moments of the speeches. I can’t wait to file into the stadium, nervous I’ll trip over my heels or the air that got in my way. I can’t wait to feel the butterflies in my stomach as the alphabet makes way for my name to be called. I can’t wait to see you all walk across the stage and feel nothing but proud to call you my friends, rather my family. To try to summarize the moments and transitions and emotions we’ve shared together for so long would be nearly impossible, but I figured it would only be appropriate to share the 10 most important things I’ve learned from you all.
1) Love is an action, rather than an emotion. Both my closest friends and my teachers taught this to me.
2) Wherever you are, be all there. Ernest Hemingway once said, “Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.” I can say with confidence I have learned the value of this statement. Regardless of the pressure we were under, we laughed like hell and we got good and angry. (I don’t know how much sleep we really got, but we survived).
3) The battle for our hearts is fought on the pages of our calendars. You all taught me that school is important, but that relationships are much more important. I believe Mumford said it best–where you invest your love, you invest your life.
4) Star-gazing is underrated. There were so many nights when we grabbed a sleeping bag and stowed away into the neighbor’s field, regardless of the season, and talked by a campfire. I am grateful for every single one.
5) There is strength in vulnerability. To see some of you expose your deepest regrets and secrets, only to realize that you are not alone, was something I’ll never forget.
6) Highschool football will always have a special place in my heart. Once a viking, always a viking.
7) Friends who read books together stay together. You know who I’m talking about. To my friends who force me to read books I would never pick out, the ones who fangirled with me at the premiere of TFIOS, the ones who brought the tissues and passed them down the entire row of seats, and the ones who don’t get mad when I accidentally ruin your book with a spilled mug of coffee, there is not enough space here for how much I love you and your awkward quirks. You all inspire me to be me.
8) Hand-written letters will never go out of style. Friends don’t let friends have empty mailboxes. Simple as that.
9) If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. I’ve learned this as I’ve gotten to watch your greatest dreams come true. You all inspire me to dream bigger and to treat failure as a stepping stone, rather than as stone wall.
10) But most importantly, I realize now that I will never be completely at home again, because part of my heart will always be elsewhere. I guess that is the price I must pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place– you all carry a piece of me with you, a piece I’d rather you keep.
Please be proud of the pieces that make you, you. Embrace the oddities and hold onto them with everything you have. These strange little quirks belong to us, and only us, and they are all absolutely vital in creating the bigger picture that is who we are. Be proud of yourself, because if you are, it never matters who else is. Because when you are, the inevitability of other people believing in you and being proud too, is such an amazing bonus to the strength you already possess. ~Tyler Knott Gregson