If I were to give a commencement address to the Pepperdine class of 2017…

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…I would say:

English doesn’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness. Love isn’t right. Community or fellowship don’t quite fit either. Rather, it’s the sense that there are people beside you who are in this thing with you: When the movie ends and you stick around to discuss it. When you’d rather sacrifice a few hours of sleep to stay at the party. That night, with the guitar. Those mornings with the bottomless cups of coffee. This very moment with a sea of identical black hats.

Tomorrow, we may wake up and feel the tug of actual loneliness. This scares me more than anything. More than landing a good job, more than moving across the country or world, more than finding the perfect spouse.

This is not to say I have never been lonely before. I have, many times. I can recall sitting in my Freshman dorm room as my parents drove away for the first time and thinking, well, what the heck am I supposed to do now? But during times like this, I think back to moments when I was overcome by the opposite of loneliness. Moments like today. And it makes me confident they will come around again. They always do.

Of course there are things we wish we’d taken the time to do these past four years: sleep, attend Convo, that cute boy across the hall, for instance. And that’s never going to change, no matter how old and wise we grow. But that’s okay too. The things we did do: write for the school newspaper, study abroad, ask a professor out to lunch– are what matter in the end.

Let’s not buy into the cultural notion that college was “the best four years of our lives” and everything’s downhill from here. I believe leaving college is not a loss, but an infinite gain: it forms the foundation for a happy, healthy life as an adult in this great world, a gain so few are fortunate enough to count. As one of my favorite characters from The Office, Andy Bernard, or Nar dog, said in the series finale, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the Good Old Days before you’ve actually left them.”

Some of us in the crowd today know exactly what their immediate future holds: Med school, starting a non-profit, striking it rich in Silicone Valley. If that’s you, I say both congratulations, and you stink. If you don’t have the faintest clue what’s next, that’s not important. What is important is that you never stop being foolish enough to believe you can change the world.

That, and never stop believing in something bigger than yourself. So often society tells us that if we only believe in ourselves, we will succeed. My four years at Pepperdine have taught me that this couldn’t be further from the truth. I fail. I mess up. I make bad decisions. Luckily, I’m not my source of hope. Find something infinitely bigger to place your hope in– be it religion, family, a social cause, what have you– and race towards that with all your strength from this point forward.

If we do this, I’m confident we can and we will make an impact in this world.

So here’s to you, Pepperdine class of 2017. Thanks for being my friends, my mentors, my role models, but unfortunately not my boyfriends. Language fails to describe the way I feel today. So, although it’s not particularly eloquent, let me end with this: Above all else moving forward, I wish you the opposite of loneliness. 

P.s. This post was inspired by this amazing essay if you’d like to take a peek 🙂

 

 


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