It is so easy to look at someone successful and forget about the struggles they went through to get there. With convocation upon us, my Social Media feeds are beginning to fill with speeches from various graduations, some recent, some not so recent. Some I haven’t seen before, and some I have seen many times. They are always inspiring, which is why they are always shared this time of year. Some are made from the students themselves, professors, and some from guest speakers, alumni, some famous, some not.
The other day I saw part of a speech by Will Farrell. He spoke about throwing lots of darts at the dartboard. He graduated with the intention of being a sportscaster but found his interests drifted away from that. He spoke about returning home and living there for two years, to mild success at comedy clubs, to auditioning for Saturday Night Live, and the bad reviews he got there. When we see Will Farrell, whether you like him or hate him, you see someone who is wildly successful. But, behind that success, there were years of struggle and doubt.
Walking across the stage (or receiving your parchment in the mail if you’re unable to attend) is a defining moment. But it isn’t one that is free of fear or doubt. And that is okay. It is okay to change your mind about what you want to do, whether that is midway through your degree or after you have crossed that stage. Part of this education is allowing yourself to evolve with it. To find the thing that you can be passionate about, that you don’t mind working on until late into the evening (or early morning).
There will be a struggle to get where you want to go, but these struggles are not unique to you. You’re not alone in the fear and doubt. These commencement speeches remind me of that and, even though I am not graduating this year, they still inspire me. They remind me that I am not behind where I should be. I am not struggling in vain. Everyone faces rejection on their path and the only way you can get to the end is to keep walking forward.
Athabasca University’s commencement ceremony is unique in that it gives every student there a moment to reflect on their own journey to that moment. Every student fills out a questionnaire and those answers are written into a quick blurb that is read out while you make your way across. It is inspiring to hear of what other students have overcome to be there, to hold their degree in their hand.
Whether you are graduating this year and unable to attend, graduated years prior, or in the years to come, I encourage you to watch the live stream of convocation because it is a deeply moving ceremony. I watched the convocation the year before I graduated, I wanted to see what it was all about and use that as encouragement to get through the rest of my courses and be eligible to graduate in the following year. I will be tuning in this year as well. Because I might be finished with that chapter but I am still working through the next, and I will take all the inspiration I can.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature. Follow her path on the writing journey at https://deannaroney.wordpress.com/