delivered by Nick Roosa, Chemistry and Theory of Knowledge teacher
Hello families, friends, colleagues, students, and class of 2019. Thank you for inviting me to speak today, I am humbled and honored.
There are two things that motivate me; I like to think of them as emotional fuel. They are fear and love. Fear can be a pretty good fuel. For example if your closing remarks for a graduation are due on a Monday and it’s Wednesday afternoon and you haven’t written anything yet, an email from the Head of School that says I need your remarks in my office now in all caps with several exclamation points can really help get it done very quickly.
As useful as fear can be, however, I think that love is more powerful. Although I wrote some remarks that I was happy with, I went to Vespers on Wednesday night and hearing all of your wisdom, gratitude, and sincere love for one another and this place stirred something in me that made me throw the first speech out and start over. These final remarks were fueled by love, I’m not certain if they came out better than the first draft, although I think they did, but I really enjoyed writing them.
What I was going to offer in my original closing were what I consider to be the keys to happiness. These are: time spent with people you care about and the pursuit of excellence. I think you have these things figured out. I share them again however, for two reasons, the first is that distilling them into two simple questions will help you to find happiness as you go forward - Who do I want to spend my time with? What am I working for? When you’re struggling, ask yourself those two questions and then use your answers as your guide. The second reason I share them is to point out that for the past few years, the opportunity to teach you has given me, and I believe my colleagues as well, both a goal to work towards each day and people we care about to work with, so I thank you, class of 2019, for the happiness that you have brought to all of us.
Now, I want to speak quickly about what’s coming next for you, which is a future where you will explore things and figure out what people often refer to as “the right path.” I found that process to be scary and overwhelmingly open ended. So I will offer some guidance - stop looking for your path forward. There isn’t one. The path we take through life doesn’t exist until we blaze it. It is only visible in our memories when we look back. And so while you should go out and explore and try things and chase dreams and move toward a future you hope to realize, my advice to you is stop looking for the path and just go. Glance back occasionally to see the direction you’re heading, to remind yourself of the progress you’ve made, and to take some comfort in knowing that things tend to work out. Look at the path you’ve created thus far and recognize that you’re still forging it right now, it’s happening, you’re doing great. Wherever you are is where you are, like it or not you’ll be somewhere new.
Additionally, I want to add that there is one caveat to the keys to happiness and that is that I can only promise that they work in the present. There is no guarantee that a goal will bring you joy when you have accomplished it. When I think about all of the times I have succeeded in my life, I remember experiencing in fairly rapid succession: satisfaction at what I had accomplished, then sadness that what I had been working on was finished, then dissatisfaction that I had not achieved more, and then a new desire and a new goal. What I want you to realize is whether things work out the way you want or not, happiness exists not in the realization, but in the pursuit of your dreams. Even when the going gets rough it’s in the work, the struggle, the creativity that is inspired by challenges, the excitement that comes from imagining what might be and hurtling towards that future without reservation, it’s there that you will find happiness. And so if you expect to find your happiness somewhere over the horizon, it will always remain there, just out of reach. If your happiness is contingent upon an accomplishment, your main motivation will inevitably be fear, which might take you far, but will always leave you waiting for resolution that never comes. But if, even in the most challenging and painful moments, you look and listen for your joy, you’ll find it there for you to experience right now. When you do this, when you recognize that you are struggling for things and with people that you care about, your motivation will be love. And regardless of where you end up, if love is your fuel, it’ll be a heck of a journey.
Class of 2019, congratulations for all that you have accomplished thus far. As you move forward it is my hope for you all that you find comfort and guidance when you remember the past, inspiration and hope when you imagine the future, and love and happiness as you experience the present.