“You Decide”: Commencement Address (Video)

I applied to speak at commencement in my final semester of undergraduate at Ohio University. And although I did not get selected to speak at graduation, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on ‘the end,’ as my peers and I prepare to leave on our next journey. (Just imagine me speaking this at the Convo in early May! Enjoy!)
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I decided to come to Ohio University to pursue journalism. It took me three semesters to decide that ‘decision’ really wasn’t a true-to-myself kind of decision.

So here I am, safely on the other side of a few semester’s worth of metamorphic rock, having finally decided to pursue the subjects I’m genuinely passionate about. Here I am, on the other side of 4 broken bones and 8 years of an eating disorder, having decided to put my mental and physical health first before it’s my turn to ‘heal the world’ like my Grandma always used to say I would. Here I am, having decided for myself where I’d like to go next, who I’d like by my side, what I see myself doing for the next 12 days, 12 weeks, 12 months, and hopefully beyond.

And here we are: We all decided to stay, to stick it out, to push through that last take-home exam and arrive at whatever time is ‘on-time’ for you. And I’m so glad you are here to join me in this celebration of that decision to stay.

The degree that you’ve earned today is your passport to the next chapter of your life – it’s got your name on it, and it can take you anywhere you want to go. Your degree will help get you there: opening doors, starting conversations, sending you on experiences that will last a lifetime. You decide where to go next.

But make no mistake: Your degree is not your one-way plane ticket to the life you’ve always imagined. You still have a lot more packing to do for that dream vacation. No, your degree doesn’t give you a final destination, with a time and date for your departure and arrival. Maybe, your degree will point you like a compass in the general direction you’ll travel to next – or maybe, it’s just what you needed to learn at this moment in your life. Maybe you’ll pick up another degree in a totally different cardinal direction, now that you know the way the wind blows in this direction just isn’t for you. Maybe. It’s up to you: You decide what your degree can do for you.

And just like how you decided to come to Ohio University, or you decided to make Athens your ‘hOUme away from home’ for the last howevermany years, I hope you decide this next journey for you – not for your parents, not for your friends, and certainly not because it’s what Forbes magazine told you do.

I hope you stand with your pack on your back and choose the most interesting way the road turns for you. You can choose compassion. You can choose forgiveness. You can choose sticking your feet in the sand, to jump not fall, to run all the way until you reach a wall, and then turn a different direction and keep on going.

But it’s all up to you: You decide.