Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My words of wisdom? For graduating high school students.

A Returning Student's Speech:
Written for Ferny Grove SHS Ceremony Evening 2010

So, I sat here just like you... wide eyed, proud and excited,  21 years ago...  3 to 4 years before you were even born...   I had JUST chosen my QCAT preferences which veered radically from physiotherapy, to graphic design, to cartoon drawing to speech and drama and then landing on the option of business.  This decision was balanced on what I thought my Mum really wanted, what was easy for transport, and what my girlfriends were doing at the time.   I also did the letterbox dance, like you will, in weeks to come, waiting for my TE score.  When I received the score along with my uni preferences my neighbours where entertained with my dramatic cries of failure.  I only got into Business Admin, not communications as I had first hoped.  See business communications was WAYYY sexier.  But I believed I had failed.  My life was over.

So you may realise that my story is neither remarkable or earth shattering, but it is completely honest.  So I have a heartfelt wish to spare you from some of false beliefs that I held at your age and give you 12 lessons in honour of 12 years of your education.

Ferny Grove SHS formal 1990

Kara Kara House Captains 1990

So my first lesson is:

There is more to you than just your marks and your O.P. score, it is how you choose to live your life and treat others that really matters.

And you are probably smarter than I was and realise that with good marks changing between higher education courses is a breeze.

So my second lesson is:        

It doesn’t matter what you do, just DO SOMETHING, and do it well.   And tantrums you chuck today are going to be embarrassing when you recall them later....

I did graduate from Public Admin at the tender age of 19.  I found it a little lonely and boring actually... not the animal house of toga fun that I had imagined.  But it fuelled my desire to work, but I also wanted my first job to pay over $40 000 a year, because I believed I deserved it.

So my third lesson is:

A university degree is rarely a meal ticket.  Hard work and initiative trumps paper every day.

So naive, over ambitious little me started interviewing for PA jobs to Politian’s and Governors and was politely, and deservedly, knocked back because I not only looked 13, but I had the equivalent life experience as well.  So I showed them all... I dyed my hair blonde and joined the Police.

Lesson 5:  Your ego will be your toughest teacher.

At the Police Academy I looked like a pint sized Yosemite Sam in my over sized uniform.  My pre-academy training regime of Karate and aerobics videos proved to be just as time wasting as you are currently imagining, and for the first time in my life I was expected physically to perform equally amongst men...  as it should be.  Being height challenged I often boasted that at least I would have a gun... but I was a terrible shot and suffered embarrassing remedial training at 6am while my squad slept.   I even suffered a huge anxiety attack and through sobs tried to convince my Mum to ring Mr Murphy formerly from your Speech and Drama Dept to see if I could join a circus troupe.

QPS Graduation PROVE Intake II 1994.  Yes, I do have a head.

So here comes lesson 6:  Nothing worth achieving comes easily.  And if it does come easily, you will pay the price somewhere else...

The passing of exams and physical gates worked well in re-priming my young ego, so when I graduated with my squad at the age of 21... you guys were newborns.... I started a job where you’re often awake when others are asleep and not many people like you.   I suffered no illusion that I was special, and the first thing my partner said to me when I got into the car to start my shift was...
“If we are in a car chase, or you get shot, you NEVER scream into the radio, or I will break your neck.”

Lesson 6:  Be cool, even if you are bleeding to death, because no one respects a whiner.

In the Police I always gravitated back to Ferny Grove SHS.  I was an under-achieving adopt-a-cop, and later did schoolies talks when I was in the PSRT, and at 27 years old I donned a Ferny Grove school uniform while acting as a covert for the paedophile task force.

The police were my family, but Ferny Grove High was a lot like coming home, and I hope that this is how it stays in your memory too.

When I was in high school I used to laugh A LOT.  So much I embarrassed my friends.  But after 12 years  in the Police I stopped laughing as much as I used to.  And then I had an 'Opera' light bulb moment.  The Police was no longer my dream, it was probably never my dream, so it was time to move over to let the real dreamer in....

Lesson 7:  The hardest lesson.   Sometimes you realise you did things for the wrong reasons.  But the wrong reasons can still leave you in the right place...

I didn’t quit straight away, I thought sitting still was a weakness...  so I threw myself into my life.  I competed in boxing and kickboxing, got my detectives appointment and promoted to Sergeant, and studied fitness while working as a boxing coach on my nights off.

Lesson 8:  Where you are right now is the perfect place to get you where you need to be...

One night the universe, and my temper, conspired to change things for me.  Everything that I was, and had learned, crashed into one defining temper tantrum.  While training I had dropped my gloves in the boxing ring and then unknowing wiped someone else’s blood and spittle from a previous class into my mouth.  So I loudly, and venomously, declared,  that I would open the best, cleanest, non-sexist, boxing studio in the world...  and dam it everyone had to come....

Lesson 9:  Jump in the deep end and you forget what you were scared off...

So now I have a fitness and personal protection training system, boxing studios and a women’s active wear label.  It’s a bit of a change from the nerdy, uncoordinated, unfit girl who designed really ugly Kara Kara cheer squad uniforms and didn’t want her plum dyed hair to run in the pool at swim carnivals.

Evidence of my first fashion design attempts as seen on Kara Kara House Captains

I have also changed my taste in boys in the last 21 years... When I was in grade 8 I had a horrendous crush on a 3 foot, red haired, ruggers wearing boy nick named ‘Fudd’.  When he was cajoled by my girlfriends to 
“go out” with me he snorted, “I don’t go out with stiffs.”

But time is the ultimate leveller.   

Lesson 10: In 20 years time the cool kids are no longer cool.

Most importantly, I have changed from being the first one to make excuses to being a cruel martyr against excuses.   My skin prickles over people whining why they don’t have time to exercise or to prepare and eat fresh fruit and vegetables.  And FYI...  if it is out of a jar, bottle or packet it is not FRESH.  It is an incredibly frightening prediction that 1 in 8 of YOU HERE TONIGHT will die before your parents because of obesity related illnesses.  So I have two lessons here for the price of one...

It is hard work being overweight and sick.

Lesson 11:

If something is important to you, you will find a way, if it’s not you will find an excuse.

So now whenever I hear an excuse I think, it’s clearly not important to you.  So please, don’t ever think your health and safety is not important.  Don’t ever think YOU are not important.

But I want to finish with congratulations...

Congratulations to all who graduate tonight and to every hard working and talented student that has received awards and accolades.  But I also need to acknowledge and congratulate every student who has used the most powerful word in their vocabulary... the word YES.

Yes to auditions, musicals, bands, competitions, student representation, fundraising and events.  Saying yes to late nights studying when what you really want to do it watch Twighlight or go to a party.  For saying yes to volunteer work or having a quick chat to an elderly neighbour.   And importantly for saying yes to your parents and teachers as a simple sign of respect. 

But there is another powerful word that needs recognition... the use of the word NO.  I congratulate those who have courageously said NO to drugs, being pressured into sex and other short term highs at other peoples expense - and the expense of your wellbeing.  For saying no to peer pressure and bullies.  Saying no to graffiti, stealing and acts of destruction that break the hearts and spirits of the affected people.  For it is the use of this wise and brave little word - NO - that clearly defines people, sets boundaries and resists dark intent. 

Lesson 12, my final lesson:

Two simple words, yes, and no, will form your future and who you are as a person.  Use them wisely and well.  And NEVER dumb yourself down in a quest for love and acceptance, because one day you will want people to listen to you and you will have forgotten to use your words.

So tonight my dream for you is to begin your journey and develop your own list of life lessons that will blow mine out of the water.  I wish for you a future so extraordinary that you will look back and realise that the universe had plans for you that far surpassed your imagination. And I thank you, for letting me be a small memory on one of the first nights of your adult lives.

Mr Popplewell - current Ferny Grove SHS PE teacher

Mr Kernovske - also a current teacher at Ferny Grove SHS.

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