So I just finished up a week back in Chicago and it’s been amazing.
And in an attempt to re-re-launch the blog just in time for the summer, I wanted to post the transcript of a speech I gave at session 5 of Denison’s June Orientation, a program where our first-years come on campus to plan their first semester. It encompasses a message out to the world that I want to share. So here it is!:
“I was talking with Mark the other day, and he noted that these speeches are sometimes just as much for the staff as they are for all of you. He’s totally right, especially for those of us who walked across the stage a little under a month ago. In a way, this is how I get to say goodbye to my home.
Which is also nice because I literally just secured an apartment today – wahooo! – so that’s huge.
I get to leave this home and sign a lease for another one!
I am saying goodbye to a place where I feel happy and whole and it’s kind of like second graduation. So I’m going to be a little selfish and say goodbye to Denison in this speech and then pass it down to you.
I’ve chosen a career in education and I’m going into high school student development in Chicago next year. I’ve been chattin’ a lot with my mom about my future. She is one of my dearest friends, by the way, but we’ve come to blows quite a few times because it’s not the most secure path…we’ve talked A LOT about fiscal responsibility and work/life balance and stress and health and living and safety
and every single worry she shares with me and there’s always a new one and that’s just kind of a mom thing…
I’ve spent a lot of time justifying and pushing back when she asks me questions or is struggling to understand my choices and I’ve noticed a pattern in my responses. I realize now more than ever that the same things I fell in love with here have become the reasons why I want to do this work.
I fell in love with social change and race and media studies and communication theory and leadership development and self-care when I was at Denison. These things have made indelible marks on my heart and shaped my future.
To sum up these things, I wanted to share with you some sentiments from poets and thinkers and um then also me.
Because what we learn in a place often leaves with us.
But this time, I want to leave with you all that I’ve learned.
We are all just walking each other home. – Ram Dass
One of my friends, on the night before graduation, stood up on a chair and said this to the whole room: “I know we won’t always be walking alongside each other in person, but I know we’ll be walking alongside each other for a really long time.”
You are all going to be walking alongside one another for four years…and maybe much longer than that. I ask you to keep each other safe. This means a few different things:
- Every single person around you in this world deserves your consideration.
- Show courage in your undying empathy towards one another.
- Value and love someone’s difference and embrace and walk alongside them when they are experiencing difficulties or setbacks that you may never come across in your own life.
- ..literally walk one another home. Campus is safe but it always feels safer when someone is right next to you.
This roughly translates to “I am because we are” or “my humanity is bound up in yours.” It is the belief that we are defined by our compassion and kindness toward others. That there is a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity because we belong to a greater whole.
At Denison, you are here for each other. You are also a part of an unbelievably large community that stretches way way past the Hill. Treat it all well.
Respond to every call that excites your spirit. – Rumi
You’ll receive many calls while you’re here. Respond only to the ones that make your heart soar…say no to the things that don’t.
For a while at Denison, I was really tired. I had taken on too much and was distancing myself from people…people who mattered more to me than anything else. I’m a textbook extrovert … it took me a long time to realize and understand that loving a lot of things and a lot of people doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for yourself or take time to just be in the world.
This is a really safe place to struggle and then share it out, if that’s how you process. I do and I’m an open book so I have told stories about my health and wellness and how for a portion of my Denison experience, I wasn’t ok and had to reach out a lot to get back on my feet. I have told friends who have taken a lot on. I have shared with first-years who have just arrived on campus. I got to do a TEDx talk.
It was at Denison where I learned the deep deep value of vulnerable resilience.
It was where I learned to choose optimism, even – and especially – in the face of adversity.
It was also where I got weird.
We all tell each other stories about what is normal or abnormal. Ignore those stories. You’ll stop looking for what or who is “normal” and instead look for people and experiences and adventures that make you feel happy and good and whole.
That weirdness will be a part of you, but your way of being in the world and your fierce integrity will define you.
You have untapped potential for all of these things…the Hill is a good place to discover this potential and bravely live in it.
My spirituality and my formative times were shaped by friends who dared to speak out, to be themselves, the ones who were brave and resilient.…some of these people that have changed my world are sitting in this room, actually…this is an incredible group.
You will soon be those people – what I have always called ‘lighthouse people’ – to others.
You will guide just by being you.
So that’s all I’ve got for now. Be good, everyone.
Please take care of each other and yourselves.
Take care of this place because it was mine, and now it’s yours too.
Walk each other home.”
I repeated a lot of the things I’ve said on the Wondergraduate in this speech. And I’ll probably continue to repeat these things in coming posts. I promise there will be new content too…these are just things I deeply deeply care about that I think are worth repeating. 🙂
Happy hump day, friends!