At the school where my kids attend, in Grade 12, there is the option to give a speech in chapel. Back in 2012, my eldest she spoke about worthiness – channeling Brené Brown and Maya Angelou. Two weeks ago my older boy gave a talk on happiness. I love that in both instances they spoke about things that mean so much to them.
They just posted the You Tube link to Cole’s speech, just click on the photo below:
His delivery is brilliant!
And, here is the transcript:
Before I begin, I would like to thank you all for coming (I know you kind of have to be here but still, I appreciate you). I’d also like to thank my grandparents for making the trip up from their vacation in Florida, and my sister Claire for coming home from Kingston to be here today, it means a lot.
As an eighteen year old, I doubt I can bestow any substantial amount of wisdom upon most of the people in this Chapel, though I’ll do my best. I haven’t lived long, I’ve spent my entire life in an affluent town where risk is minimal and opportunities are abundant. I should have lived a happy life. However, happiness is one of the things I have struggled with most in my time on this earth, and it took a long time for me to find what it looks like to me. I believe joy is most important as a base on which to build my life. A short while ago, I found out how I could increase joy, or rather, I figured out as much as I could being an eighteen-year-old-almost-man-but-not-quite-there-yet-still-trying-to-find-his-place-in-the-world-but-hey-I’m-young-I-got-time. In my, admittedly limited experience, I have been able to recognize and establish what some of my keys to living a full and joyful life are: do what you like, like what you do. Say yes, because the only thing the word “no” does is limit you to what you already know. The final key to my happiness is to make an effort to obtain it, to strive each and every day to find the little things that can be uplifting.
I first saw the phrase “do what you like, like what you do” on a tag for the clothing brand Life is Good. There is a Life is Good store located in Chatham, Cape Cod, where every year, my mother takes me and my siblings to purchase one new t-shirt with a positive message on it. Every single shirt I buy has a tag in the bottom left corner that reads those impactful words: do what you like, like what you do. What does that even mean? Well, to me it means that no matter what anybody tells you, no matter what is expected by your parents, siblings, teachers, friends, or even yourself, you must be doing something that you enjoy. Your passions should make you happy. Your experiences should benefit you in a way that expands your mind and increases your overall well-being. As long as you are doing what you enjoy, then you will enjoy what it is you are doing. It is deceptively simple yet devastatingly difficult to follow-through on. So here’s my advice: just go out and find something you love. If you love to write, then please pursue that. If you love model trains, then keep building those model trains young conductor. If you even love astrophysics, more power to you! Just never, ever talk to me about it because it will go in one ear and out the other. Once you find that thing you love, let be that thing you look forward to every day, amidst all the dullness of day-to-day life, you my friend now have something to get you through math class.
Until recently, my life was dominated by the word “no.” I didn’t want to do anything, I refused to get involved, didn’t make the effort to be social, and it had a seriously negative effect on my mental well-being. Saying no to every opportunity I heard for around a year left me withdrawn, cold, and frustrated. It wasn’t until I started taking risks with the word “yes” that I began to feel truly fulfilled. I said yes to a life-changing service project in my own country. I said yes to join the school play which leaves me feeling joyful throughout the long winter. I said yes to starting over, coming out of my heavily fortified shell, making friends, DOING WHAT I LOVE, and I wouldn’t want to be in any other place in my life right now. I realize this kind of sounds like me just going off about how great my life is, yay Cole and all that but no. I admit to the bad days. I admit to the times when all I want to say is no, curl up into a ball and never leave. I have to remind myself that these bad times are a necessary evil that put life in perspective and allow us to appreciate the good times. I listen to a lot of poetry in my spare time (yeah, I know, I was surprised too). One of my favourite poems is called “Instructions for a Bad Day” by Shane Koyczan, and it begins like this:
“There will be bad days. Be calm. Loosen your grip, opening each palm slowly now. Let go. Be confident. Know that now is only a moment, and that if today is as bad as it gets, understand that by tomorrow, today will have ended. Be gracious. Accept each extended hand offered, to pull you back from the somewhere you cannot escape. Be diligent. Scrape the gray sky clean. Realize every dark cloud is a smoke screen meant to blind us from the truth, and the truth is whether we see them or not – the sun and moon are still there and always there is light. So be calm. Loosen your grip, opening each palm slowly now. Let go.”
I know, necessary evils are hard, but I’m reminded of one of my favourite quotes: “if you’re going through hell, keep going,” Sir Winston Churchill once said that, and he was a great man so I’m gonna take his advice.
How can you simply make the choice to be joyful? Well believe me when I tell you: it’s not easy, but it’s doable. A conscious effort to be happy goes a long way, whether that be a positive affirmation in the mirror while you’re brushing your teeth in the morning, or switching your outlook on your current situation. A negative attitude is easy. It makes us feel safe, like somehow we have less to lose as a result of not looking forward to anything. I hate to be the one to tell you, but this is wrong. When you choose positivity, I promise the risk is worth the reward ten-fold. It won’t be easy, there are going to be hard times and tough choices, but what seems impossible in the moment will fade into victory once you take control and assert your happiness. If you only listen to one thing during my speech this morning, let it be this: YOU have control over your happiness, and YOU are absolutely strong enough to not only obtain it, but spread those positive vibes in the process.
When you really think about it, being happy is probably the most important part of living. When you’re happy, you’re successful. When you’re happy, you’re confident. Please, allow yourself to be happy, believe me, each and every one of you deserves it. Good things grow out of joy, and that certainly gives me hope for all of us to lead our best lives. Now, instead of having all of you sing a hymn, I wanted to do something a little different. The Rev has kindly allowed me to break from tradition, so sit back, relax, enjoy life, and here is my one man rendition of the Queen classic, Bohemian Rhapsody. JUST KIDDING! Would you all please stand and sing hymn 662 The Trees of the Field.
He did a wonderful job. It makes me muse about what I would have spoken about way back in 1982 when I was in Grade 12. And then my mind wanders further as I consider what topics my younger two kids will tackle. Just what lessons are resonating in them that they want to share with the whole school? I can’t wait to find out!