I have a guilty pleasure; I absolutely love graduation commencement speeches. There are two reasons for this: 1. They are always filled with such hope and inspiration for the future, and 2. There is a part of my brain that refuses to believe that I am no longer a student. In fact, since being in Georgia, I constantly have to remind myself that this is not a school trip or a year abroad. This is actually my job in my real world life.
The reason I'm sharing this guilty pleasure, which may be similar to someone saying that they love when friends sit them down for a slide show of their vacation photos, is because I recently watched the Sarah Lawrence Class of 2011 commencement speech given by Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post (which has only been around since 2005, which surprised me. I thought it was way older than that). Of course I have to say how happy I am for all of my friends that recently graduated. It's hard to believe that we're all grown-ups now. No more lying around on Westlands lawn or sitting on the hot rock- well we could, but I think it would be considered trespassing. For those of you who aren't SLC people, here's the commencement speech:
The two things that stuck out from her speech were her thoughts on the desire to connect with the world and her thoughts on getting lucky by being unlucky.
Since being in Georgia I've been thinking about the concept of 'community' a lot (and as soon as I start thinking about 'community' I think back to all of my classes with Julie Abraham where she was dead set on making us realize that the concept of 'community' only exists in our heads. So when I think of the construct of community and how I perceive communities within Georgia I imagine that Julie Abraham is somewhere in New York frowning but she doesn't entirely know why. Sorry, Julie!). I think about Georgian communities- most of which are based on family ties and are very different from the U.S. I also think about the refugee community where I teach every week as well as the expatriate community that I socialize with. There is a whole lot of community going on in my life. And what am I doing with all of it? I'm just trying to connect. I'm trying desperately to connect with the Georgian community- which is very strained at times due to language. I'm trying to connect to the refugee community because I am inspired and humbled and so many other things by the amazing women I meet at the community center. And I am trying to connect with the expatriate community because after all of the cross-cultural connections I'm trying to instigate, at the end of the week I just want to have people who speak the same language and who can laugh about the same things. All I do with my life is connect. Even this blog is a testament to my desire to connect with yet another community- my friends and family who are not on this journey with me (oh man, this post just got kinda meta. Whoa). And I think it is important to say that this project that I am on is a attempt by the Georgian government to integrate Georgia into the global community.
The idea that bad things can happen for good reasons is not exactly a new one. But I think that people too often forget it. For instance, it took me 9 months to get a job that did not involve wearing a shirt with a company logo. And the first real job that I got was to teach English in Georgia. Sometimes I forget that, yes, this was the first job that I could actually get. Although it may sound bad to put it in such blatant terms, it's how it happened. And although the time between graduation and the day I got a job was hard and soul crushing and depressing and ego deflating and I could go on, but I'll spare you, it was worth it in the long run. The other jobs I was applying for involved sitting at a desk for an interminable amount of time, getting coffees, and fixing xerox machines. Sure, the money would have been better, but I definitely would not have been able to have the adventures that I've had and meet the people I have met and even endure the hardships that will be good for me in the long run. I had a lot of doors close on me, but then a big ol' window opened up. And even on my bad days here I think I would do well to remember that being in Georgia is a hell of a lot better than being at Trader Joe's.
So, to all of my new fellow SLC alumni, I wish you all the best in whatever comes next. And for everyone else who is not so new to the real world, remember, we can always make it better.