Thursday, June 06, 2013

Pomp & Circumstance

A little back story: If you've read "The Year of Learning Dangerously," you have come across one of the shining lights of academic goodness of the kid's first year of homeschooling. I refer, of course, to her math tutor Miss Frizzell, the woman who taught Daughter that Geometry doesn't make all grown women cry. I owe her a debt so when she asked me to come speak at a graduation for her class, I didn't hesitate.

"Ooh, a commencement speech!" a friend marveled. "Someone's moving up in the world!"

Sure, someone is. But before you imagine me hurling platitudes across the Rose Bowl into numberless hordes of waiting ears, you should know this: this was a sixth-grade graduation; there were three students. They are wonderful girls, all of whom have some vague desire to write and I'm the closest thing Miss Frizzell has to Kurt Vonnegut, so off I went, and I had a wonderful time. I have to say I will speak to larger groups before the month is out, but I doubt any of them will offer me a friendship bracelet afterwards.

Here's what I said to them:

Good Shepherd and Miss Frizzell’s class are a great place to be from. Everyone knows you; you’ve started to figure out who are you (trust me, you’ll be doing that for a while); you’ve practiced being yourself on a small stage. From what I hear, you are all very good at being your own unique selves. Now it’s time to take that show to a bigger stage. You’re going to be terrific, incredible middle-schoolers. But before you go, I’m going to give you two pieces of advice. Feel free to ignore them; I have a 12 year-old, I’m used to being ignored.

1. Keep Working Hard.

I know Miss Frizzell well enough to say that this year you’ve done more, and better, work than you’ve ever done before. Good! Keep at it. Hard work leads to good grades, and proud grandparents, and mothers and fathers who don’t ground you, and these are all good things. But some day, even with all your hard work, you will get a grade you don’t like. You might, even with all your hard work, have one entire class which never really does make any sense to you. If you stay in the habit of working hard, you will be able to look at that grade which won’t be an A and think “It’s not what I would have wanted, but I did the best I can do,” which I promise you feels better than thinking “I didn’t try hard and I didn’t do well and I’m never going to know what I might have been able to achieve.”

2. Bad Stuff is Sometimes Good Stuff.

Here’s the thing about middle school; it’s intense. You’re going to feel all the feelings you’ve ever had, sometimes in just one lunch period. It’s not middle-school if you don’t. Most of those feelings will be pretty good; great, in fact. You’ll be happy more often than you’re unhappy. But, when you’re happy, you think things like “This is awesome pizza!” and “I love pizza!” and “Yeah! More pizza!” You already know most of the things you learn when you’re happy. But when something goes wrong, someone hurts your feelings, something which never bothered you before now really bugs you, you’re usually in new territory. Take that opportunity—and it is an opportunity -- to inhale, calm your mind just a bit and think “Okay, what can I do to try to make sure this situation never happens again?” The next few years are when you get to take every problem-solving skill you’ve ever been taught and test them out. If you’re problem is something like “I really hate Volleyball, and I seem to be very bad at it, and we’re doing it in PE for the next six weeks, whether I like it or not,” then I will make one more suggestion: write. I’ve gotten through most of the really embarrassing moments of my adult life (and there have been so many) by promising myself “Yes, Quinn, you look like an idiot now, but later this will make a really excellent story.”

I’ve made a career of it.

Good days don’t give you anecdotes. Lousy days make great stories and the best opportunities to figure out who you are. As I said before, you’re going to be doing that for a while. Like, the rest of your life. But don’t worry, Volleyball only lasts one semester.

Today is the first day of a new journey. Think of it like a camping trip, only you’re going to be walking around the world. What’s the most important part of camping? Preparation. You want to make sure you have everything you need before you set off. Let me assure you, Maya, Natalia, Arianna, you have everything you need. And those of us who are walking ahead of you can’t wait to see what kind of adventure you have. Congratulations, good luck and make us proud.


Anonymous Julie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:03 PM  
Blogger AndyEM said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Amy G. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Valerie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:12 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home