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So I’m apparently really bad at keeping up with posting. Or anything, for that matter. Since school ended, I’ve been busy (still). You’d think summer would let up a bit but no. Anyway, a month after I finished my college classes, I finally got around to graduating high school summa cum laude with a 5.04 GPA (how, I have no clue; but hey, I’m not complaining). I hadn’t planned on going, but my parents wanted me to and  I’m actually kind of happy I did (don’t tell them though because I’m prideful).

Some people I hadn’t counted on caring or supporting me, showed up to prove me wrong. Thank you to those people.

My guidance counselor introduced me with some incredibly kind words before I took her place at the podium and delivered my speech which I’d like to share with you now. It’s not terribly long, but it comes from the heart and means quite a bit to me.

I’ve always been a bit different. Whether it was because I watched Scooby Doo instead of Hannah Montana, read Mark Twain and J.R.R. Tolkien instead of Juny B. Jones, chose to spend two weeks of summer vacation at debate camp, or jam to Korean Pop instead of Taylor Swift – I’ve always chosen to place my interests in something other than the mainstream. And I think part of that has led to our success in school. I say “our” because I know that you’re different too. [This school], together with our parents, allowed us to chart our own individual course rather than joining the mainstream. You chose this school over a traditional brick-and-mortar one; you chose self-discipline over being told what to do every day. And you’re sitting here as a result.

           There are a few things I’ve noticed over the last few years that I want to specifically address and hope you keep in mind forever. And hopefully that doesn’t sound too cheesy.

  1. We’re all equal, right? Maybe we don’t have equal talents, but we’re equally valuable and equal before the law. But I believe that just because we are valuable doesn’t mean we’re entitled to anything. Entitlement is a disease our society refuses to fight because it is mis-labeled as a “right”. As Americans, we have incredible privileges – privileges people in other countries risk their lives to attain. Is it their fault to have been born in their country?  By the same token, is it by our skill that we were born with these privileges so readily available? We’ve grown soft and we’ve become afraid of hard work; not many will say this, but I think we have this fear that, if it’s difficult or uncomfortable, something’s not right. Someone else isn’t working hard enough for us to have it easier.

So take a moment to let that sink in… And because I’m terrible at transitions, we’ll move right on into Point #2.

2. Ji Kwon, a Korean singer, once said that, “What we should be really scared of are not failures, but the heart that is no longer brave enough to take risks and embrace challenges”. Sure, risks and challenges are uncomfortable. But they’re not something to be feared. Discomfort is not synonymous with wrong or bad and nothing worthwhile comes easily.  Consider those you look up to – anyone you consider successful. They’re not where they are because they sat around and hoped for their lives to fall into place. They made it happen by taking risks and moving forward even in their fear.

At this point, I’d like to quote Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  -Teddy Roosevelt.

3. You are unique, valuable and irreplaceable – gifted with talents only you can nurture. Don’t waste that opportunity. You have everything you need to be successful on both personal and societal levels. Utilize that gift. Be resourceful.  Be creative.  Maybe you don’t have what the person next to you has, but that’s the point: you don’t need what they have. You need what you already have.  Take the time to identify what that is and use it.

4. On that note, I’d like to discuss the idea of success a bit more. Unlike many people, I don’t think you need the approval of others to be successful. While we may not realize it, this is how many of us measure our value, worth, and success: by other peoples’ standards. It takes a lot of courage to shun those opinions (not the advice, but the opinions) and focus on what matters to you. Over the last few years, I’ve learned that setting goals is important to success. But the end goal rarely turns out to be the way I envisioned it. So I would agree with Seungri, another Korean singer, when he said, “Don’t believe in success. Rather than that, believe in the amount of your effort and passion”. Effort and passion are the two constants in the equation of success. I would add that faith and prayer are additional factors in this and the one that offers the most peace of mind. In their song “Fire”, BTS says, “Don’t try so hard. It’s okay to lose.” What they mean is not, “give up because it’s hard”, but rather, “acknowledge that you might not have met your goal; it’s okay. Failure doesn’t make you a loser; it means you’re working toward something”. My dad often says, “our rewards in life will always be in exact proportion to our services”. As a general rule, this is true. I’ve tested it out many times.

So, to summarize:

  1. We are all equal, but not entitled + remember that a privilege is not a right.

  2. “What we should be really scared of are not failures, but the heart that is no longer brave enough to take risks and embrace challenges”.

  3. You have everything you need to be successful right now.

  4. Success is subjective; just keep making progress and keep in mind that your value is not determined by your failures or your successes.

If you read that, thank you.

Anyway, after the ceremony, two girls ran up to me and went, “OH, MY GOSH. YOU’RE A K-POPPER TOO!” One of them had a picture of BTS pasted to the back of her cap. I laughed and told her Suga was my spirit animal. Then her mom came up and said, “She mentioned Fire and I was like, ‘ahhh’!”

It was a nice night. Only 34 graduates.

And because I’m really bad at transitions, I’ll sign off now and leave you with a picture of me in my brother’s gown from last year (::cough:: it reached down to my ankles so I was the midget smurf of the evening ::cough:: I wasn’t about to pay $50 for a shiny blue garbage bag ::cough::).

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Love,

Rana || xoxo