Change is Good. This was the topic of my speech I gave to the graduating class of 1992 at Marquette University when I was the Senior Speaker, an honor with which I was greatly bestowed.
As I stood at the podium and looked out at the 18,000 graduates and loved ones that filled Milwaukee’s Bradley Center to celebrate years of hard work, my hands shook, but my voice was steady. I had a job to do, Faculty and staff and chosen me out of all my classmates to do this job, and I wasn’t going to eff it up.
I spoke to the graduates about “Change”. We had entered Marquette in 1988 and by 1992, we had created a staggering amount of new organizations for student bodies to come; saw our University mascot name change from the politically incorrect Marquette Warriors to the non-threatening Marquette Golden Eagles, and partook and benefited from the development of new student housing, for example. We were surrounded by change and I told my classmates that, as we were now prepared to leave our beloved school, that we, too must be prepared for change.
I was already going through my own change that day. My parents divorced when I was eight and after the divorce my mother moved to Germany and my brothers and I did not see her for a very long time. (I think I’ve told you this before.) My dad and step mom didn’t like this too much, naturally. On my graduation day, my mother showed up to be a part of the festivities. My parents, who had paid for my education, and attended my track meets, and let me and my roommate, Denise, come home on weekends to do laundry and raid the fridge for four years, didn’t like this too much, naturally. My college graduation was the first time in at least five years that my entire family had been together in the same place. I didn’t like this too much, naturally. On a day that was to be full of happy celebration, it was full of tension. Instead of smiles on my family’s faces, there were tight grins stretched into place on one side by anger and the other by politeness. Instead of looking into eyes that should have been full of joy, I looked at my mother’s eyes which were brimming with sadness and perhaps embarrassment, my father’s eyes were bursting at the seams with constrained resentment and my step mother’s were teeming with disbelief. My grandma was there, too. A pious woman, her eyes were closed tightly and looking to Jesus above to bestow us with heavenly strength and humility.
In some ways, thanks to stuff like this, I guess I’ve always been a strong kid, a strong girl and now a strong woman. I’ve had to be. It has been expected. (Thank you, Jesus.)
As I stood at that podium, I was scared, I was nervous, I was in turmoil, but I had to be strong; not just for myself, but for every single person there to listen to me. I wasn’t the only person there with a story. Others, were scared, nervous, in turmoil. For them and for myself, I had a job to do. So, as I looked out and scanned that vast sea of a crowd, I leaned into the microphone before me, delivered my speech and I told them what I had to tell myself and what I had to tell my family. That change is good.
I’m in a place of change right now. I’m in Prague; have been here for nearly three months. I’ve just finished a very-tough, yet rewarding, four-week course to obtain my teaching certificate at The Language House. I am now certified to teach the English language abroad. Thanks to help from my family and some key friends here in Prague, I’ve opened the door to a set of skills I didn’t know I had. Truly, this isn’t a door I knew I was to, or had available to open. For the past ten years, I’ve been so focused on Los Angeles and my producing and entertainment career there. I had to be. I love my career and what I do; but now, I’m open to change. I have to be.
As I sit at The Globe Cafe on a quiet, slightly gray day, writing this, I find myself stopping to hold onto the sides of the laptop, which has become my podium. I am scared. I am nervous. A part of me is in some sort of turmoil. A tiny bit. I close my eyes and look up to the heavens to see my grandma, who sends strength and humility and smiles and encouragement back down to me and I breathe. I open my eyes and return to these words here for you and for me with conviction.
Because change is good.