To The Class Of 2016: It's Okay To Reinvent Yourself

Good morning President Ross, Mrs. Lynn, Board of Trustees, Ms. Kerney, faculty and staff, families and friends, and classmates. I am honored to stand before you today as we, Class of 2016, celebrate the culmination of our studies and the conferral of our degrees.

Graduates, as we prepare to take our next step within this world, I think it’s important to realize it's okay to invent and reinvent ourselves as many times as necessary until we finally get it right. Deciphering who we truly are is a lifelong challenge that will continually test us, as we grow wiser through time. 

With a million thoughts racing through our minds beginning the moment we placed these very caps onto our heads this morning, we may have questioned, where did the past few years go? It seems like just yesterday we may have been screaming at the top of our lungs to our closest friends in the middle of the night, coffees in hands, classroom notes scattered around the floor, time ticking away as we scrambled to meet deadlines, wishing the stress of college would just be over … or maybe that even was yesterday. And right now, here we are, questioning what’s about to happen next?

Our emotions may be similar to what we felt on our first day at Lynn. Excitement fills our souls, as we’re about to experience one of the biggest transitions in our lives. But this time, we have every single memory spent on this campus to hold onto as we continue to find our true selves.

We’re about to embark on a journey that will pull each of us in our own separate directions. So, hold onto the memories you cherish most with the people who have left imprints on your heart.

Lynn is where we may have challenged ourselves to become more open-minded; where we learned from our peers and formed friendships that will last a lifetime; or where we connected deeply with faculty or staff who inspired us to fulfill our many goals and purposes. We’ve learned … it's okay to take time to rebuild ourselves, or in some cases, find whom we truly are. 

During my freshman year at Lynn, I found myself standing at a crossroad. I was studying psychology, but there was something missing inside me that I couldn’t quite figure out. My family asked me to consider transferring to a university closer to home in Pennsylvania... so, I did. My world changed the instant I went from sitting in Lynn classrooms with professors who took the time to really get to know each student to then being surrounded by 150 strangers in lecture halls with professors who only took the time to get to know us by a subtle moment of shared eye-contact. 

You know those moments in life where you feel like you're just living through the motions, and you can’t quite figure out why? ... That was the very first time I experienced the deep desire to seek a more meaningful purpose within my life. It only took 11 weeks for me to realize this major transition was solely meant for me to reinvent myself. It dawned on me that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life just living through the motions … I wanted to feel them.

When I pictured the safety of a home that made me feel secure and truly fulfilled, Lynn was included in that vision. In that moment of clarity, not only did I choose to transfer back. But, I also decided to change my career path to something I was passionate about.

I’ve always been drawn to the art of storytelling, and I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to connect with others through telling the truth within every story I shared; which is why I chose to become a journalist.  

With that move, I realized many lessons. One is that we each have our own bit of  passion burning in our souls … and to ignore that and let the doubt of others or maybe even ourselves interfere with living out that purpose … is a disservice to who we truly are. 

The thought of having to reinvent ourselves in a society that so often makes us feel rushed to figure it all out can be terrifying, but I’ve learned is that the truest form of bravery is to wake up every single day and have the courage to be your most authentic self.

I promised myself to always let the passion burning inside me be what ultimately makes this life worth living. I became the co-editor-in-chief of Lynn’s award-winning student publication, iPulse, and brought home a first place award for a story I was passionate about telling. I worked with brilliant mentors, who inspired students to follow their callings, no matter how far out of reach they may seem. And who let them know, it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s the only way we ever learn how to truly grow.

Life can be a beautiful mess. It’s all about how you perceive it and act on what truly sparks your happiness. It’s okay to change your mind or not have all of the answers right away. The unknown can be quite frightening at times, but it can also be what shakes you into realizing parts of yourself you never knew or perhaps, kept secret from the world. 

You will come across individuals who will try to tear you down. Who won't believe in your dreams, and who will doubt you, because they can’t see your vision. But what Lynn has taught us, is that no dream is ever too big or too far out of reach. You have the ability to envision yourself in a career or position that may be so abstract at the time ... but by following your passions and trusting in yourself ... you will get there.

It’s okay to not have all the answers in this very moment. Go on to invent and reinvent yourself as many times as possible.

Today, surrounded by your loved ones, as you take in all your beautiful memories of Lynn ... note how quickly it all goes by.

My advice to you … is to look into the eyes of someone close to you, just a moment longer. Hold onto each hug, just one squeeze tighter. Keep the beat of your laughter running, just one note longer as you celebrate and reminisce with everyone today. Time is precious and before you know it, it has disappeared into a glorious memory.

We live in moments, and it's important to always stay present and to not miss what's right in front of us. Allow yourself to feel the emotions of accomplishment running through your veins ... You did it. Class of 2016, we did it.

I wish each of you my absolute blessings, and I look forward to  the day our lives cross paths again, when we leave yet another lasting impact on one another. Congratulations class of 2016.