The following is adapted from a speech I submitted to be considered to speak at the Boston University College of Communication commencement ceremony.
This weekend, I graduate from Boston University. I am done with college. And as I look back on my four years here, I’ve come to a pretty simple realization: I have been mostly unqualified for almost everything in my college career. I’m still not entirely sure if I chose the right major, and I haven’t really settled on what I want to do with my life. But nonetheless, I’m going to share what meager wisdom I have at this point in my life.
Commencement for the College of Communication is a celebration of some of the best storytellers, creators and change-makers I know. These are people who are willing run up their Uber bills to go find a story, crowd fund their senior thesis film, and stay up all night thinking of that perfect turn of phrase. I’m serious when I say that these folks are pretty talented – even if some us still don’t understand that our college name is singular – communication, not communications. You
know who you are.
Anyway, now it’s time for me to try to distill four incredibly complex years into a few digestable thoughts. Let me start with a story.
When I was a sophomore, I was serving for a semester as the Multimedia Editor of The Daily Free Press, the independent student newspaper on campus. It was a position that combined my interests in photography, video, and digital storytelling. I enjoyed every minute of that semester, but by the end of it, I was ready to ride happily into the FreeP sunset. So I was pretty surprised when a fellow editor told me I would make a great Editor-in-Chief. I laughed at the suggestion. Seriously, I did. But just consider applying, they said to me.
The idea of leading and editing this publication was beyond my wildest dreams. Though I
did have journalistic writing experience, I spent most of my time at the FreeP as a photographer – I was surprised I even made it so far as Multimedia Editor. But nonetheless, I was fascinated by the opportunity to go a step further.
I decided to call up a couple of my professors, Mitch Zuckoff and Greg Marinovich, for their advice, which was unequivocal – go for it. So I did.
And my following semester as Editor-in-Chief turned out to be the most rewarding few months of my college career. It was terrifying, don’t get me wrong. I was constantly worrying about editing, hoping I could keep all the rules and guidelines from falling out of my head. Meanwhile, I was trying to wrangle together a newsroom of equally stressed and eager student journalists to create a news product every day of the week.
But when it was all over, I realized this position – one that I had assumed I was totally unqualified for – had stretched me in ways I never could have imagined. And it became one of the defining features of my experience here.
So what does that mean for us as we step into a scary, new phase of life? Well, there’s a quote from David Carr, the late New York Times columnist and BU professor, that I think describes my position pretty well.
“I now inhabit a life I do not deserve. But we all walk the earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful, and hope the caper doesn’t end soon.”
Make no mistake, I am not saying that we do not deserve these degrees. Of course we do. I haven’t met a harder working group of people in my life, and I am constantly amazed by the great work my classmates create.
But I do believe that humility is what allows us to build new skills and experiences from the ground up. It allows us to be curious, to ask those “stupid” questions, and make those rookie mistakes. That’s where true learning happens. Learning that I hope we all continue to do for the rest of our lives.
We are about to fall headfirst into uncharted territory, blazing the path as we go. Let us make those scary leaps into our future. Let us recognize our shortcomings, embrace them and use them to our advantage. Let us go confidently into the world, but not forget just how far we’ve come in four years. It wasn’t too long ago that most of us were shy freshman accidentally interrupting classes while searching for an empty computer lab. Now we count among our ranks award-wining communicators of all varieties.
So chase that dream job. Go with your gut. Seek out all of life’s great pleasures, whether that’s marriage, travel, family or career. As we enter this new chapter, we must humbly stretch ourselves and create the lives of our dreams – the lives we do not deserve.
Featured photo by Maddie Malhotra.