By Glenda Chen
I would very much like to speak at graduation, but I wasn’t chosen, so here is what I would like to share with you.
If I told you to swim in an ocean full of sharks, would you do it?
Alright, fine. What if I told you that vending machines are twice as dangerous as sharks? That’s right, you’re more likely to get squished by a vending machine than to be attacked by a shark. Statistics teachers will probably tell you that the numbers are misleading, but anyway, my point is, not all risks are as dangerous as they seem.
So why not try swimming with sharks once in a while?
We are faced with hundreds of choices every day. As we’ve grown up, from childhood to today, we’ve been given more and more of these choices. For example: in elementary school: We’re going to read this book today.
In middle school: We’re going to read this book today. You can write your paper about the main character, but not about anybody else, and it has to be a 5-paragraph essay.
In high school: We’re going to read this book today. You can write your paper on any of the themes, and I really suggest you have an intro, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Senior year: We’re going to read this book today. You can write your paper on anything, and regardless, you’re going to get the same grade.
Seriously, though, we often find ourselves deciding between something familiar and something uncertain. Sometimes taking your chances can lead to great success. After all, we wouldn’t have landed a man on the moon if those astronauts hadn’t given it a shot.
Now I’ve had interesting experiences with the unknown. Five years ago in Taiwan, my mom and I took a spontaneous trip. With only our backpacks and a telephone number from a travel book, we jumped on a train and let it carry us off. We didn’t know anyone on the rural coast, but sometimes the warmest hospitality comes from strangers. We boarded the train, only to find that we were traveling in the wrong direction…because we hadn’t realized that trains ran on the left-hand-side track, a custom left over from the Japanese colonial era.
I wish I had paid more attention in World History.
But after that first mistake, when we arrived at the beach town, our B&B place turned out to include breakfast, lunch, dinner, AND a new family. Although we were strangers, our hosts welcomed us like their own children as soon as we met. You see, taking a risk rewarded us with an amazing adventure and lots of good food.
If taking chances opens up so many worthwhile opportunities, then why are we so afraid to challenge the unknown? Because we prefer our comfort zone. We want to feel safe, and we don’t want to face the potential of embarrassing failure.
But Peter Drucker can help us stop exaggerating the negatives within our own minds: “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” So whaddya got to lose?
Don’t be afraid to fail. Once you start on your venture, that fear of failure becomes motivation. Motivation to do whatever is in your power to make sure your efforts don’t fail.
And if things still don’t work out, you at least know that you’ve tried as hard as you could. That’s what matters. Embarking on an endeavor is not so much about the concrete result, but more about the process of growth and what we learn from new experiences as they come.
So take the harder path. You don’t know if your time and energy will pay off, but that’s okay- just give it a try. Even when things seem to be falling apart, there will be people around us to support us. Parents, friends, teachers, mentors, who will help us through tough times.
Say yes to opportunity, because the only way to know whether you like something is to jump in headfirst. Say hello to someone you don’t know. Taste new foods. Perform on stage; looking like an idiot is okay! (Believe me, I say this from experience.) Sign up for that AP class. Petition the school district if you want a new program. Join a new sport, but I do have a warning: it may grow to consume your life – for the better.
As we near and pass the legal age of majority, we face a completely new world of decisions. Like Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” So choose the road not taken, because you never quite know where you’ll end up.
Thank you for your time, be wary of vending machines, and try to avoid sharks. Stay safe, happy June, and congratulations to the class of 2015!