8 years ago I graduated from Durham College in Ontario, Canada. This year, I was asked to return and teach for the exact same program I graduated from, Advertising. In my first year as an instructor, bestowing knowledge to students born in the early '90s, I had a chance to reflect on my own journey after graduating in 2008, and everything these young adults had to look forward to.
At this year's convocation, I was asked to be the guest speaker. Here is my speech.
Good Afternoon fellow faculty members, parents, grandparents, friends and most importantly to the graduating class of 2015 Congratulations! You made it!
Now, I had to think of a way to really grasp your attention and since I can't SnapChat this address to all of you, I figured out how to get through to you with what is called a "Listicle." Mom, Dad, this is like those articles that are really lists that you see on Facebook. So, I present to you:
"5 Things I Learned After Graduating from College".
1. Welcome to the beginning of the best...and worst years of your life.
I graduated from Durham College almost 8 years ago. The one thing that has remained with me is the sense of pride and accomplishment you feel today. Just, breathe it in for a second. Let it carry you into your first job. Your first promotion! Then, remember this feeling when you get fired for the first time. When you experience your first real heartbreak or setback. When you fail again and again remember how powerful opportunity feels because from here on out, your mistakes are now your accomplishments. Do not be afraid of this inevitability. From these mistakes you will learn everything not only about your chosen career, but about yourself. How you recover from these failures and what you learn, is what will define you. Not what life throws at you. Life doesn't happen TO you. It happens FOR you. Working in New York City for the past 5 years, I lost my job 3 times (The economy right?) But, each time it meant I was on my way to better opportunities.
2. Surround Yourself Only With People Who Lift You Up
I am sure you made lifelong friends here. Friends who drank with you the pub will be at your wedding someday. Some people who are your friends now, will drift away. And that's okay. Later on, you will find, they were in your life at the exact time they needed to be there.
Move on from the negative people who drag you down NOW. In your professional life, and your personal life. You will only ever aspire to be as great as the best person in your circle of friends. If you're the best person -- find a new group of friends. Find positive people who will inspire you. If I didn't have the friends, and support system I had in New York City, I wouldn't have achieved the things I did that brought me here to speak with you today.
3. Money Isn't Everything
I know that most of you, and probably your parents after spending a fortune to get you here today, being successful and money is what you are all very excited for. The truth is: When you walk out that door and into the world, diploma in hand, you are owed NOTHING in return. The ones that get the job do not wait for it. They are the ones who studied instead of going out, the ones who did all the group work...for the entire group. The ones who proofread their cover letter 30 times. The ones who offer to work late. They will make money. If you are one of those people, keep going. I'll see you when you're up here giving the commencement speech in ten years.
If you know you are not one of those people, start now. Because to make money, takes hard work. Long hours. No lunch break. No vacation days. Getting people coffee and lunches, no excuses. Grin and bear it. These are the jobs you have to look forward to while you earn your place. It will be worth it one day...probably the day you see your own kids graduate.
4. Do the things you have always wanted to do. There is a GREAT big world out there.
Now that you have made it this far, don't be daunted by "the real world". Travel. Explore. Get a work visa like I did. Apply for the job you don't think you're good enough for. Go BACK to school. Volunteer. Re-connect with that friend, or sibling or hobby you've been neglecting because let me tell you, your new job, and life are going to get in the way. Before long you'll have mortgage payments and car payments, spouses, babies, pets and parents you'll have to take care of. Everyone has to work but make sure you make time for the things that make you you now. And on that note...I'm guilty of this too but, 4 words: PUT. YOUR. PHONES. DOWN. Have conversations face-to-face. Make real connections. Learn what it really means to be present.
5. Be grateful.
Look up. Look around at the people who brought you to where you are today. Tell them thank you. A year ago, my contract ended at a fashion magazine in Manhattan. I decided to take a break and travel to Europe and visit my family here in Ontario on the way back to New York. While visiting home, I found out my Mom had Stage 4 breast cancer. She is now in palliative or what is known as "end-of-life" care. I decided not to go back to New York. I decided to stay here to help my Dad take care of my Mom. I have learned she is one of the reasons I have the courage to do anything I have ever done, including speaking in front of you today. So hug your parents tight today or anyone who has helped you get here. Take all the lame pictures they want to take with you. You are not alone. Everyone here today is rooting for your success. Celebrate, then get out there and show us what you can do.
On my graduation day from Durham, I had the same opportunities available to me, that each of you have available to you today. 8 years later, its not the money I remember. It's the feeling I felt when I saw my name in the New York Times. When I saw my designs in an international magazine. When my article was published in the Huffington Post. When my professor asked me to come back to Durham and teach. It's the professional and personal relationships I've managed to maintain that mean everything. It's the memory of all the risks I took that sometimes, knocked me down. But they were all worth it. Because I am here today. And I can share in those moments with you and the people I love. So if you're wondering, can I do this?! When you walk out of these doors today, my answer to you without a doubt, is yes. Yes you can.