Not fewer than four years ago did I find myself at the conclusion of the final practice of my swimming career. I found myself driving down the longer route home, visiting my junior high and elementary school – the park I had my first kiss, and the local 7 eleven my friends and I would frequent when picking up coffee to finish during our long nights of studying for advanced placement classes.
I wondered what college would be like, the next stage in my life my peers had popularly dubbed as the “real world.” I pondered over what it would be like to finally be on my own and to be responsible for my own well-being. I harbored this sentiment of longing, longing to stay home, to stay with my friends, and everything else I found comfort in. But I knew that it was time to move on to the next challenge life had posed me.
College was, and will always be, a utopia in my eyes. During my experience, I discovered a period of time characterized by freedom and exploration. The concept of time finally had a whole new meaning because I had, within reason, the liberty to do whatever I chose to do, and I finally had a command of my own circumstance and situation. It was finally time for me to challenge my capacity for independence.
Even though I felt this sense of fear in coming to college – the feeling of being a lone soul discharged into an expanse of 23,000 people that I didn’t know – as I became more acclimated with our school and our campus community, I instead embraced this dynamic notion of change. I perceived the challenge of acclimating myself with an unfamiliar community as an opportunity to challenge my own set of ideas, values, and personal motivations. Instead of naturally gravitating towards what I was already comfortable with or familiar to, I embraced the notion of being surrounded by 23,000 people of different cultures and backgrounds. In retrospect, it is easy to realize that only half the value of my education is a product of what I’ve learned in the classroom.
As I conclude my time at UC San Diego, I’ve realized that learning is not a stage in time, but rather, a process – a process that never ends. Moving forward in to the “real world,” I’ve realized that it is only in our our capacity to perceive challenges as opportunities that we will be better able to shape the literature of stories and experiences that define us. Our personal stories are only as great as the challenges we have had to overcome. During the course of our lives, it is inevitable that we will be posed with daunting trials seeming indomitable beyond measure.
UCSD to me is not defined by the walls lining Center Hall or Ledden Auditorium. It is not defined by midterms or final exams. Although I will forever cherish the tradition and atmosphere our school has always welcomed me, I will remember UCSD as the collective sum of people I’ve met and stories I’ve been fortunate to hear brought upon by people that have influenced my perceptions and motivations in life that have challenged the way I see the world.
It is necessary for us to understand that we are never defined by what we own, where we are, or what we do. If we choose to consider our relative positions in life by absolute measures of success, we will almost always fail the expectations we have of ourselves. We have all gotten to UC San Diego as a consequence of different circumstance, and we cannot forget that the greatest measures of success and achievement are not determined by where we are, but how far we currently are from where where we originally started. The truest measure of the value of our lives derives from an implicit understanding of the relevance of our personal experiences, and understanding how these experiences have helped us grow intellectually and emotionally to prepare us to overcome our own personal fears.
In each of us remains the capacity for inspiration. We each have our own stories to share, our values that drive us, and motivations that define us. When we come together as a collective body of minds and ideas, we can do so much more together than we can accomplish on our own.
If there is any time to justify a case for optimism, it is now. We are now privileged the merit of a college degree, a privilege unknown to over 93.7 percent of the world’s population. And in this light, it is our responsibility as the leaders of our generation to commit ourselves to manifesting what we’ve learned to transform this knowledge into tangible contributions to a majority of the world not privileged this gift.
I cannot say for certain how we will do so, but I can attest to the fact that we are better prepared to tackle these problems, better than we were three, four, or five years ago. We’ve learned under the instruction of Nobel laureates, nationally recognized artists, engineers, and scientists. Our professors, administration, and faculty have imparted upon us the value of their experiences, knowledge, and wisdom to better prepare us to tackle the problems facing our generation. And at this point in time, it is more important than ever to embody a sense of confidence – a confidence stemming from the mental, moral, and social foundations we have built at our alma mater.
Let us forever embody the motivations of the curious mind: “the power of imagination makes us infinite.” The limitations we face in life are only temporary. The limitations we face in life are a measure of our capacity and willingness to test what we know, and to gain an understanding of where we fall short in order to improve ourselves to get where we want to be. In us all, we have the capacity to challenge the tribulations faced us, the tribulations posed of others, and together, we have the capacity to overcome virtually any challenge. With commencement comes our privileged opportunity to shape the literature that defines our generation. I can say with confidence, that we are all ready to challenge the trials that lie ahead.