I have this thing for commencement speeches. I’m a chatterbox, but public speaking totally freaks me out (ask my old Pastor in Aberdeen how I disappeared when they tried to get me to do a talk in front of a group of people) but I’ve kinda always wanted to have the wisdom and stories to tell that encourage and inspire in key moments of your life – like graduation.
There are two commencement speeches that I love and watch over and over. One is the address Jo Rowling gave to the graduation class at Harvard University. The other is the address Julianna Marguilies gave to the graduation class at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College. Both ladies talked about their lives and decision making. But Julianna’s speech is the one I want to talk about.
In her speech, she talked about when she made the decision to leave ER – one of the most popular TV shows in the world at the time (and I loved the character she played, Carol Hathaway). She was offered a truckload of money to stay on the show. But she didn’t want to. She was told she was crazy. She was told turning it down would mean she’d never work again. But she wanted to leave L.A. and do different work and come home to New York. in the end, it was her values that helped her make the decision. With a little bit of encouragement from a Buddhist and her Dad. People gossiped and made fun of her after. They didn’t understand her values…she didn’t need the money. She was happy to turn the money down.
As I write this, I’m in the house alone. It’s the first time any of our household have been in the house alone since we were burgled while our family was attending a wedding reception. My stepfather suggested that I invite a friend round, but I didn’t. Because I know that my Mum is now very scared to be alone in the house. I don’t want to live in fear. My head tells me that the burglars are interested in stuff more than physically harming any one of us. But even if they were, am I going to stop living my life because I’m trying to live in a protective bubble?
Sure, I do take precautions for my safety. Because sadly, there are violent people out there. I don’t generally walk through parks or lanes or lonely streets at night. I try to take the car where I can at nighttime. I make a point to let people know where I am so that hopefully if I went missing someone would notice! But I want to show my Mum that you can be alone in the house and it’s ok.
It was an easy decision to make tonight. Because my values are to not live my life in fear of what someone could do to me. If I got the chance, I would like to look those people who burgled us right in the eye because I’m angry at what they done, and I’d like them to know why. I’d like to know why they did it, and if there is something that I can do to prevent them from feeling the need to do the same thing to other people.
There are so many decisions that have been easy to make based on my values. Who to vote for in an election (or more to the point who not to vote for). What I will consume in the media. It’s an easy decision not to buy most magazines targeted at women and sadly, most newspapers because I believe that gossiping is a sin and I don’t want to buy into that. It was an easy decision to let my Senior Section unit change the words of the Promise they made years ago. Because I believe in honesty and not making promises you know you aren’t going to keep.
In fact, most of the big decisions in life are easy when I make them based on my values. These days the decisions I stupidly spend the most time on are what to have for dinner, which card I will buy for my friend’s birthday, which flavour of fruit juice to buy this week and which day I’m going to not do any work on.
Or maybe I should say decisions are simple to make. Because sometimes it’s not easy to follow them through.
Hmmmm….more thought required.
My main point though? It’s important to work out what your values are.