A toast to the graduating class of UVic Law, 2012. It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since I returned to school. Hard to believe that only two years ago I was overwhelmed with the amount of reading that I needed to do to stay on top of everything. What a contrast that makes with this year, having bought zero textbooks and done very little reading, I am imbued with the confidence that I will still do well on my finals. What a difference time can make.
The end is bittersweet. I have made friendships these three years that will last a lifetime (and I will declare right here that I am committed to ensuring that they do). These three years have been trying, but the hottest fire forges the strongest steel, and that is analogous to the kind of relationships you develop throughout education like this. Sadly, and perhaps beautifully, all things must come to an end. That is part of growth. If things don’t end, it impacts our ability to move forward.
Our graduation formal was this past weekend, at the Union Club in Victoria. In the month leading up to the event, our graduating class nominated and then voted on a faculty member and two students to represent our class by speaking. When I was told by a good friend that she had nominated me I was touched. Then a few more people told me the same thing. I went from being touched to a little nervous. What if these people actually voted for me? I waffled between really wanting to speak, and being nervous about what I would say, and how I would prepare my speech. What do you say to such an inspiring group of people?
Then, a week or so ago, my friend Darcy and I found out that we had been voted to speak. I was (and still am) deeply humbled and honoured. What an incredible privilege! How the hell would I live up to it?! I knew that the answer to that question was to simply speak from the heart.
The themes I wanted to speak to were: connection, inspiration, opportunity and acceptance. Beyond that, I had a loose quote that I knew I wanted to incorporate, and went from there. I wrote the speech in a few hours in the morning before going to class. Once written, I didn’t do too much editing. A little cursory stuff here and there, but for the most part, the words rang true when I sat down to write them, and they didn’t require too much tweaking.
Before I share what I spoke with you, I would like to thank every member of my cohort for doing me this incredible honour. It is touching and inspiring to have been able to meet and work with such a humbling group of people. In selecting me, my graduating class taught me more about myself and my perceptions than I could have imagined. Did you know that for most of my life I’ve walked around assuming that most people like me in a superficial manner, but don’t care to get to know me on a deeper level? Moments like these act as a beacon shining on the darker recesses of our ego.
So thank you. Thank you for helping me check those assumptions. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for creating a space for acceptance, growth and vulnerability.
Without further ado, here is what I spoke this past weekend:
To UVic Law’s 2012 Graduating Class
We each started this journey for different reasons. Some of us want to change the world. Some of us want to get rich. Some of us just want a job. During these three short years, those expectations have been tested. Poked at. Prodded. Challenged. The way that we thought things would work out may not have turned out to be true. Our own ambitions and desires may have changed. Maybe through disillusionment, maybe through new opportunities, but always because of new insight.
If there is one thing that law school has made abundantly clear, it’s that life does not turn out the way it should.
Some people ask, “Where is the proof that life will not turn out the way that it ‘should’?. The proof exists in our lives to date. If you died at this moment, how would you feel about your life? There is no doubt about the outcome. You would be satisfied in some ways and dissatisfied in others. There would still be one piece missing. What if you had died ten years ago? The particulars might change, but there would still be no doubt about the outcome. You would still be able to distinguish areas that were satisfactory and others that were not.
Now look ahead, ten, twenty, or fifty years from now – to the end of your life. There is still no doubt about the outcome. You would still be satisfied in some ways and dissatisfied in others. When you consider the enormity of what it means to “make life work out the way it ‘should,’ ” can you plausibly argue that you would be any closer in the future than you have been in the past? Life does not work out the way it ‘should’ work out, nor does it turn out the way it ‘shouldn’t’. It works out the way it does work out. And this will remain true at the moment of our deaths, just as it remains true during all other moments. Life turns out the way it does.
I’m telling you this not to depress and rain on the rest of our lives, but rather to encourage all of us to embrace the embarrassment of riches that life provides us with. There is no gift that we can give ourselves greater than that of perspective. What may initially appear to be a failure, can be seen in new light as an opportunity. The universe is abundant, and so too are the opportunities and choices that we are provided with each day in our lives. Every missed deadline, an opportunity to see where we can improve our own processes. Every week of stress, an opportunity to see whether or not we are pursuing what really matters. Every breakdown an opportunity to have a breakthrough. Every goodbye, an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve gained in knowing each other.
Life is beautiful. Beautiful and elegant because of its fragility. How tenuous and tempestuous the moments it creates are. It is not on us to control the universe, only to be maximally authentic, to be our very best selves, in the face of whatever it has in store for us. To ask from those around us what we want, and to commit to achieving that.
On that note, I invite all of us to reflect on how we wish to remember these past three years. A lot of hoops to jump through? Yup, definitely. Tedious at times? No doubt. But also, an opportunity to connect, and create new friendships. The opportunity to challenge the way we think, and to better ourselves by broadening our perspectives.
Part of what makes life beautiful is that it ends. And so too, do these three years we have shared together. Is there any logic, any rationale as to why this particular group of people have come together to graduate at this time? There is not. We are simply here, because that is how life has turned out. It is on each of us to make of this moment, and these three years, whatever we wish. It can be something we look back on as tedious and tiresome, or a beautiful gift, created by the universe without reason, and with the only obligation being that we allow ourselves to see it as the opportunity it has been.
So go forward from this moment, committed to embrace the opportunities that you are presented with. Committed not to expect from life that it works out as it should, but that it will work out as it does. Committed to live our lives, and be who we are, regardless of what the universe presents to us.