High School Senior Morgane had it right all along.
When I was 18 years old, I wrote a graduation speech. Like every other senior, I was required to write a speech; each was then submitted and read by the English department, out of which were then chosen 6 or so speeches to be performed for these same arbiters of good, and three chosen to be delivered on Graduation Day.
I had written my speech the morning it was due – waking up at 6 am to write before 7:45 band practice – I struggled at first, defaulting to recounting one of my most memorable nights in high school - the night of my first all-nighter - unsure of where my meandering recollections would take me. But eventually, the delirium of an early morning, and the anxiety and pressure brought about by the sudden gut-wrenching moment of panic realizing that you have just osmosed from the semi-permeable membrane of “it's so early” into that of “it's almost _:__” created a release for me, and bubbled into a beautifully-tied confluence of saccharine platitudes, and authentic reflection. Well-drafted, it may not have been, but derivative and trenchant, I think it was. And, for once, I believe, what I meant to say - at a time when I rarely ever knew what I wanted to say, always vouching for the bigger vocabulary word, over the bigger meaning - was honest.
The speech, as I mentioned, chronicled my first all-nighter. I was a HS sophomore, and my paper on Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart was due the next morning. Other classmates and I labored into the early morning, all the while instant-messaging, with a finale crowning our flagrant attempts to procrastinate of commandeering a car for a 4 AM meal at our local diner. My speech ended with the following (I was 18, so, please, trudge through the cheese):
“Perhaps this story was applicable only to my circumstance, and my life, but ultimately, today, with so few days of school remaining, I can’t help but apply the same idea of procrastination to our present situation. High school has been one big procrastination- a mere distraction from the real world. One extensive trip to the diner to relax us, to help replenish us, to build our confidence, and to clarify the importance of seizing opportunity. Someone once told me life is not about thinking, it’s about doing. We are all procrastinators, with respect to whatever it may be, so please, get distracted, in the worst times, look forward and hope and understand that those distractions are life. If I could impart one piece of advice to the Class of 2007 as each of its members make his or her way to every corner of the world, I would say, procrastinate. Procrastinate shamelessly and never regret doing it because it is during those few brief moments of interruption that we truly live."
(As an aside, I must say shame on me for actually quoting myself - I feel like Conan in his 2000 Harvard Commencement speech. It's an all time favorite)
I wrote this when I was 18, but how much has really changed? Yes, yes, I as a person most certainly have, but my life perspective, I am discovering, has not. As I sit in my bed, observing the success of many of my friends, knowing that I have passively waited, expecting my future to come to me, I realize that despite the lack of clarity that remains the only thing consistently defining me at this point in my life, one more thing remains unchanged: my commitment to procrastination. It carried me through college, but it is continuing in my post-grad life, just as high-school Me, sagacious as ever, had suggested that it always should (lets hope sarcasm translates). Almost three months into my experience in China, I wonder, sometimes, especially considering how much of my time is spent relishing infinitesimally small moments of home, and seeking the solace that only a sliver of butter, or slice of bread can offer, if this journey for me, has just been another procrastination from the “real” world – whatever that means.
I read another commencement speech (coincidentally, tonight) that proffered “don’t work” under all circumstances. Perhaps this is not bad advice. “Work” by virtue of its name, is undesirable. But perhaps it is. In truth, the threshold between creating a comfortable distance from the dreaded office job, and running away from anything that closely resembles one is thin, and often blurred. In my mind, my fear of committing to my future has allowed me to defer my decisions to my commitment to procrastination; my commitment to nothing.
So where does that leave those of us who cut our hair the night before a big test, or wrote emails to ex-boyfriends at 4 AM (the loneliest hour of the day) from an empty library, or those who uprooted themselves (to China) to evade confronting the daunting job market? Maybe all along, what beauty I saw in procrastination, I am now understanding is simply laziness. My speech did make the final round – I’d like to imagine because some piece of the message resonated as true with the English staff, but who can say?
I do not expect to reconcile my tendentious logic with the present need to figure out where I will be in two months – I only wanted to pause, momentarily, to accept and recognize that this idea that poured out of me when I was 18, that I wrote off as contrived, and hallmarkedly-saturated verbiage, has proven to be one of the few pillars of conviction that has remained unchanged in five years. So is there some truth to this? Surely there must be.