Graduation Speech: Fetal Eyes
New Roads School, Santa Monica, California
Class of 2006, June 4, 2006
I recently turned 18, and I feel so young. And suddenly the faces of all my peers also seem so young to me. Somehow I think I deceived myself into believing that age 18 was a time to be mature and adult and knowledgeable and confident about certain things, and that there must be something wrong with me because of how naïve and unsure and small I’ve been feeling. But then, in the process of writing these words, I’ve realized that maybe 18 is akin to infancy, that maybe this year, this graduation celebration marks an ending and a beginning; maybe this is our rebirth. Again we are being released from our mothers’ wombs. Some of us are coming of age screaming with the vocal chords we’re just realizing we have control over, and others of us are emerging silently, wide eyed into this huge exciting unknown world.
The words of the Guatemalan poet Otto René Castillo return to me in times of change. “Es bello amar al mundo con los ojos de los que no han nacido todavía.” In essence he says it is beautiful to love the world through the eyes of those who have yet to be born.
The earth we are being pushed into and simultaneously invited out-to is as lovely and limitless as we permit our eyes to perceive. Yes, we are inheriting a messy world with so many injuries and injustices, yet if we can look at the world ahead and above and around and within us with loving, open, unbiased eyes, I believe we’ll find infinite possibilities of beauty around us. Through our fetal eyes we’ll realize this Earth is supporting us and is also depending on our participation and contribution and love. This is our time to live; to be and to do.
And of course, this time we are not emerging asthe inexperienced unborn. Today we are young adults who have been teenagers and pre-teens and children and toddlers and infants and fetuses and dreams and stardust…and we will always contain shadows of these identities within our selves. Some of us have heavy luggage to carry on our journey, and some of us will simply bring along our bodies and the dreams in our hearts.
This time as we emerge from the womb, the welcoming arms will hold our fragile bodies in an embrace of goodbye rather than bundle us up and carry us home. We are being born with knowledge and consciousness, with awareness of self and society, with a sense of justice and generosity, instinct and intuition, trust and critique. We are being reborn with power to make decisions and choices and facilitate change. We don’t have to accept the world as it has been upon our arrival, but as it is within the soul of the universe, the essence of our imagination.
After today, some of us are going to travel physically far from the people and places we’ve called home, and others of us will choose to stay close to where we have been. We are making choices about how we want to live our lives, where we want to put our bodies and what ideas we want to put inside our minds. Can we make decisions that fulfill our needs and indulge our desires, that strengthen our individuality and honor community? Can we acknowledge the problems and meanness and ugliness in this world and still rejoice in the beauty and wonderfulness, holding onto our hope?
New Roads tried to show us how this can be done: encouraging self-empowerment through community awareness, granting second and third chances for lessons learned the hard way, teaching us that learning is more about the journey than the destination, showing us that learning also happens through teaching; honoring intelligence by recognizing the flexibility of the mind, the heart, the journey.
Some of us may be finished being “Students,” (or at least we may think we are, for now) but let us never stop calling ourselves learners! School has helped to keep us open-minded and humble by offering education daily within structured space and time and exposing us to information we might not think to investigate on our own. All the experiences we’ve had, all the information we’ve remembered or forgotten or retained subconsciously, it’s all been worth something, all of it has contributed to making us who and what and where we are today, it has helped us prepare for our departure. And now it’s time to journey outward into our lives, nourished by all the education and experiences we’ve been fed.
Many of us may never see each other again after this day, and as painful as that is, I, for one, am eternally grateful for every silly and serious interaction I’ve experienced throughout these years. I’m ready to accept these painful goodbyes. I am so excited for each of you to go off and Be Yourselves and do amazing things. You will do amazing things; this class is blessed with unique, opinionated, creative, rebellious, strong, fun, funny, thoughtful, loving, open-eyed young adults. With our open fetal eyes we are being re-birthed and released into a beautiful world, a beautiful life. There is a special space for each of us, the world needs us to create that space, to fill and fulfill it.
Departures are painful. I hope we can endure the heartbreak of leaving that which we’ve loved and braving the tears of a “thank you.” Let us take time to rest and reflect and remember where we have been, what we have learned and have done and have been given. Let us say “Thank you”:
A nurturing, ”Thank you,” to ourselves.
A grateful, “Thank you,” to our teachers.
A loving “Thank you” to our families, to our friends.
Thank you for the memories, the experiences, the lessons, the laughs…Thank you mostly for the process, the journey, the never-ending path we are walking, taking, making.
Here I am reminded of the words of another poet. The Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote, “Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace el camino al andar.”
We are all on our own journeys, we are all creating our own paths as we take each step forward, making space for ourselves out in the unknown.