Worth the Wait

Life is like a waiting game. We are constantly waiting for each big event to come along. High school seniors across the U.S. know what I am talking about. They are on the home stretch. With less than 3 months to go, they can see the light at the end of that long, dark tunnel.

I gave the graduation speech when I graduated in 2012. It was an honor and a day that I will never forget. I can still remember my nerves waiting to walk out for graduation. That was the first time that I realized what I have to say actually matters. And if I can write down my thoughts in a precise manner that makes sense and is relatable, my words can be very powerful. I received a lot of compliments. I’ve been told it drew tears to some of the parents and grandparents’ eyes because I made the connection between the generations that needed to be voiced. I wanted to share that speech on my blog because I want a place where I know it will exist forever, after my computers crash and papers burn.

But I also thought that maybe it could draw a connection for those seniors anticipating graduation.

Friends, family, teachers, administrators and fellow students, I want to thank you for attending this graduation today. I also want to thank you for everything you have done for my fellow graduates and me up to this point in our lives. We greatly appreciate the advice and life lessons you have taught us over the past 18 years. We truly would not be sitting here today if it were not for you. So for that, we sincerely thank you.

Ardmore High School, Class of 2012, today is our graduation day. We have spent the last 4 years anticipating this very day. I hope it has or will live up to all of your expectations. So before you start anticipating the next major event in your life, treasure this day for all it is worth, for it will be over far too quickly. 

Through these past few years, we have all experience trials–especially with the deaths of our three dear classmates whose memory we will all forever cherish. And while these heartaches were difficult to overcome, these tribulations have only taught us that life is short and every day counts. 

Class of 2012, you are part of the net generation, or the generation of technology. The Internet (as we know it) was invented either the year you were born or the year before. Cell phones are not strangers to us, and information has always been at our fingertips. We have days worth of songs on our iPods, and we can send and receive messages in a matter of seconds. We text fast, we drive fast, we eat fast, and we learn fast. We put a whole new meaning to living life in the fast lane. 

We are not like our parents’ generation. When they get a new device, they read the manual while we start plugging in cords. And though we can take advice from our parents’ generation, we cannot always assume it is the same in this day and time. And like our parents, one day we will be giving knowledge that we have received to the generation after us. And the advice may or may not be compatible with that day and time. 

In our parent’s generation, there were very visible paths to take: college, military or work. And while those paths still exist, so many more are visible today. Kids in our generation have made millions of dollars because they invented a cool app or turned a strange news interview into a catchy song. Our ideas may be the next big thing and one of us sitting here today may be the next Steve Jobs. One of us may find the cure for cancer. Our options are limitless.

Now it seems that a huge gap exists between Generation X and the Net Generation, but that is not true. Because while we grew up with computer games instead of marbles, our parents–I can’t believe I am saying this–actually know what they are talking about. While their lessons in school and technology were different, their lessons in life, love and prosperity all amount to the same. Though I have yet to learn all of the lessons my mother and father learned, I can share with you the advice my parents have given me, that their parents probably gave them and so on and so forth:

Life is going to be difficult, and some days you are not going to want to get out of the bed, but that’s no excuse. There will always be someone somewhere that is fighting a harder battle than you. Always have faith, but remember having faith makes things possible, not probable. Sometimes the right path is not always the easiest. Count your many blessings, one by one. Be the best friend you can be because in order to have friends, you must also be one. Never forget those who have stood so long by your side. Get on your knees and pray, then get on your feet and work. Those who gossip to you will gossip about you. Say what you need to say, but only say what you mean. Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it. Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength. Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. Everyday is a blessing, a gift from God. And finally, the way to happiness is not having the best of everything, but making the best of everything you have. 

Graduates, congratulations on completing your final day at Ardmore High School. I am pleased to say: we have made it! As we prepare to accept our diplomas, we are also preparing to head out into this place called the real world. And though it seems scary, these life lessons we have learned will help along the way. 

Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. So take chances, follow your dreams, continue learning, travel the world, and enjoy your life. Don’t dream your life, live your dreams. Live with intention and be an individual. 

Steve Jobs once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste your time living someone else’s life.” And while your life may take you over seas or hundreds of miles away, always remember your roots lie here in Ardmore, Alabama. The potential for this graduating class is greater than any of us can even imagine. And I know that somehow we will all make our mark on this world. 

In closing, I would like to share a poem whose author is unknown, but was used by Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant to motivate and inspire those around him:

This is the beginning of a new day.

God has given me this day to use as I will.

I can waste it or use it for good.

What I do today is very important,

Because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.

When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever

Leaving something in its place I have traded for it.

I want it to be a gain not loss, good not evil, success not failure

in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.

Thank you and congratulations Ardmore High School, Class of 2012.

The second paragraph is my favorite because I remember wanting graduation to come so bad; my senior year was a waiting game. Waiting for senior nights and all those lasts to finally occur just so I could “get out.” I know that most seniors experience that senioritis. But there’s a difference between excitement for graduation and waiting for it to happen. We spend our entire lives waiting. Waiting to start school, waiting to get a license, waiting to be 18, waiting for graduation, waiting to be in college, waiting to be 21, waiting to get married, waiting to start a family, waiting, waiting, waiting…

Every time a big event comes in our life, we experience it for so little time before we start waiting for the next big event. We can’t enjoy graduation without waiting for college. We can’t enjoy college before waiting for that job offer. It’s a constant game we play. We forget to live in the moment and forget to experience the moment. Right after we threw our hats, everyone dispersed to take pictures and eat cake and celebrate. But in those few moments, when everyone was still on the field, I stood in my chair, looking for my best friend and family, but I caught a glimpse of the past and future crashing together like a wave hitting the sand. I was no longer a high schooler. I was officially a graduate. I had my diploma; my tassel had been turned; yet I was still on the football field surrounded by friends and family.

My hair had fallen. I was sweating and uncomfortable. But I remember thinking in that moment that that was the very moment that everything changed. And it was.

I think we get so involved in the moment and in the waiting that we don’t realize when major transitions actually occur. It wasn’t when I accepted the diploma, or when I turned the tassel even. It was when I stood watching my past high school days and friends disappear second by second, graduate by graduate.

Life has a funny way of showing you stuff when you least expect it. As a photographer, I wish that was the moment someone had gotten on camera. When the event was over, the crowd was dismissed, yet graduates’ lives were drastically changing before everyone’s eyes. And we never even realized it. We rushed off to the celebration parties and to pack for senior trip and leave the exact transition we had been anticipating all that time.

I rushed back to get to my party with my family and friends. I’m not sure I even shed a tear. And even before I took that first step away from my high school, I was answering questions about my future that had just begun.

So, senior class of 2014, you have less than 3 months left. You’ve probably chosen a college, decided which dorm to live in, found roommates, picked out a comforter for your next XL twin bed, and decided on a major. You’ve ordered invitations, and you are counting down the seconds to accepting that diploma. But what are you going to remember about that day? Are you going to remember the speech? Probably not. Are you going to remember the hours of pictures? Maybe. Are you going to remember everyone that came? No. Are you going to remember the flavor cake, the music that played, the first person to hug you after? No. You are probably not going to remember all those things because frankly, they are not that important.

But you should remember that moment where you watched your high school days dip below the horizon like the sun setting: beautiful and worth the wait because trust me, it is worth the wait.