IT GETS BETTER?
I started "Dear Token" to answer questions that people were afraid to ask and to give unfiltered but easy to swallow advice. Recently I was asked to give a commencement address to a group of at-risk graduates. These young men and women have endured more pain and rejection already in their lives than most of us will ever know.
To be honest, I did not write the speech for those graduates. I wrote it for myself. They inspired me to take a step back from my own problems and see that the world is bigger than my temporary drama. In celebrating them I needed to kick my own ass, to remind myself to be grateful for everything I have, and to be hungry to make the most of each day.
So, nobody asked a question this time, but here's some #Token wisdom nonetheless. You're welcome.
I graduated from high school back in the dark ages, in the year 2000.
And even though there is no Facebook memory or Snapchat story to account for that day, I can still picture it very clearly. I was bald, about 50 pounds heavier, and extremely sure that I had my whole life planned out.
I remember the valedictorian, we’ll call him Steve. He made a speech that day. It was eloquent and chock full of even more SAT words than this one. But he said something that I have not been able to shake since then. As he strolled down memory lane, recounting football victories and bonding over common interests, Steve encouraged all of us to cherish our memories of high school because “high school is the greatest time of our lives.” Many of my classmates nodded. I sat in my chair and I thought, “God I really, really hope he’s wrong.”
Spoiler alert: he was.
Don’t get me wrong, I look back at my time in high school with great appreciation for the teachers and counselors who helped me, for the growth that came through trial and error, and for every friend who stuck by me through my awkward, angsty, acne-filled phase.
And I hope when you think about your experience here you do so with that same sense of appreciation.
But I know that high school, that life, has not been easy for any of you. There are many people I'm sure who did not expect you to make it to this moment in your life. There are others who still doubt what your next move will be. And that's OK. As long as you have life, you will have doubters. But you will also have an opportunity to silence all of them.
Yes, Steve was wrong that day. High school is not the greatest time of your life. In fact, I feel sorry for anyone who is too fond of their high school experience. How sad it is to peak at 18 before you can rent a car at Hertz or run for President. How sad to stop learning, to stop growing, to stop experiencing all the many emotions life has in store. However good or bad, however hard or easy, however unexpected or relentless it has been to this point, there is so much more in store for you than this.
But I did not come here to give you a regular “it gets better speech.” Because the truth is “it” doesn’t get anything. YOU get better. You get better at handling it when it gets worse. You get better at accepting what you cannot change and changing what you need to about yourself, your environment, and the world around you. You get better at loving yourself, at forgiving yourself, and at allowing other people to love you as well.