As we graduate today, we are dropped into the real world with all of its opportunities.
Gone are the days where solely our reputations and grades define us.
We leave them behind and embrace our true selves as we delve in to the areas, in which we want to accomplish great things, be it in a specific subject, a trade, the military, or the workforce.
The ways in which we define ourselves become limitless.
Our intangible qualities come to the forefront: our innovation, our passion, our creativity, our motivation. We are free to define ourselves how we want to be defined.
We have a fresh start.
With this lack of boundaries, though, comes uncertainty. We have decisions to make about what kind of impact we want to have, and there are so many options.
Some of them we gravitate to.
Some of them we think we like, but discover later are not our true passions.
I was never quite sure of what I wanted to do when I grew up. At first, I wanted to be a doctor, but I realized I much preferred history to science and that I have no desire to watch surgery. I’m not sure what I was thinking there.
What I do know, though, is that you all will do amazing things. All of you have something special to give to the world, and I believe I can speak for the class when I say that we are all cheering you on.
Find what you love and go after it wholeheartedly, and don’t be afraid to listen to that gut feeling.
If you follow your passion, you will become the best version of yourself as you grow to meet your passion’s demands.
There is a lot of uncertainty in the years ahead, but each situation is a chance to grow and understand. Uncertainty is not to be missed. You will all find what you are good at.
Not knowing what comes next is normal.
I remember about a year ago that I told my mother that I didn’t quite feel like an adult yet.
She replied that she didn’t either, and I realized that if this incredible woman, whom I have looked to up all my life, is still figuring things out as she goes. I - and you - should be prepared to do the same without fear.
You will know when you are making the correct decision, and when you are wrong, you will pick yourself back up.
Mistakes are just part of the journey; they do not end it.
Don’t cut yourself off from opportunities just because you have not planned for them.
And not if, but when, you succeed in whatever you do, know that you have a whole community that is extremely excited for you.
It’s up to you who that community includes, be they family, friends, Mansfield residents, or people you have yet to meet. We are all proud of you, and we will stick with you no matter what.
It’s okay to not know what comes next. All I know is that we need to do the best we can and use all of our resources, from our talents to our relationships.
I urge you to ask questions in the midst of your uncertainty. Even if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, push through. Something I need to remind myself anytime I feel anxious about asking information is that the knowledge gained far outweighs the effort lost.
In fact, I decided to ask some of my family friends I have been blessed with for the advice they would give to themselves as an 18-year-old. They have all been in your shoes, and have gone on to have great careers and great families.
Pam Oppenheim says to “slow down and enjoy the moment.”
Robin Thevenot says to “not take life too seriously. At 18 you try to map out your life but if you find yourself interested in another path, it’s ok to change.
Just stay true to yourself and be kind.
You can’t please everyone, and it’s ok to make mistakes.
As long as you own it and learn from it you will be a better person. Explore and don’t be afraid to try new things.”
Katie McGuire says to “enjoy college” or any plans you have next “because it goes by so fast and it’s such a unique and great time period of your life.”
Mary Casale says “to practice more compassion for oneself and for all others. None of us has all the answers. We can never really get this life right.
But we can never get it wrong either.
And we can never get it all done. Have more compassion.”
Stacia Lemond says to “Dream magnificently, live passionately fight courageously, love fiercely, breathe, and always dance in the light of lessons learned and life’s successes.”
So, Class of 2019, I urge you to take all of these pieces of advice to heart, as these voices are way more qualified than that of the nervous 18-year-old who doesn’t quite know how to do laundry yet.
But I will leave you with one thing to keep in mind as we leave one realm of uncertainty to the even more foggy future.
There is no correct answer to life. Don’t let uncertainty stall you. Go with your gut and make something happen.
I wish all of you the absolute best of luck.
Caitlin McCarthy is the valedictorian of the Mansfield High School Class of 2019. This speech was delivered at commencement for MHS on June 2 at the Xfinity Center.