I hope you don’t mind a brief deviation from my usual content in exchange for a small dose of inspiration– especially for those of you about to graduate.
Yesterday, I received a letter from my aunt. It was meant to be a “graduation present,” despite the fact that I graduated two years ago. Inside the card, was a silver necklace with a mermaid on it and a copy of Barbara Bush’s 1990 Commencement Speech to Wellesley College.
The speech was exactly what I needed to read.
If you don’t feel like reading the full speech (which I highly recommend) or watching the entire video (below), I’ve done you a favor and pulled out the important parts:
She related the story by Robert Fulghum about a young pastor, finding himself in charge of some very energetic children, hits upon the game called “Giants, Wizards, and Dwarfs.” “You have to decide now,” the pastor instructed the children, “which you are — a giant, a wizard, or a dwarf?” At that, a small girl tugging at his pants leg, asked, “But where do the mermaids stand?” And the pastor tells her there are no mermaids. And she says, “Oh yes there are. I am a mermaid.”
Now this little girl knew what she was, and she was not about to give up on either her identity, or the game. She intended to take her place wherever mermaids fit into the scheme of things. “Where do the mermaids stand? All of those who are different, those who do not fit the boxes and the pigeonholes?” “Answer that question,” wrote Fulghum, “And you can build a school, a nation, or a whole world.”
Later, she continues:
For over fifty years, it was said that the winner of Wellesley’s annual hoop race would be the first to get married. Now they say, the winner will be the first to become a C.E.O. Both of those stereotypes show too little tolerance for those who want to know where the mermaids stand. So — So I want to offer a new legend: the winner of the hoop race will be the first to realize her dream — not society’s dreams — her own personal dream.
How perfect is that little girl? I so wish to be like her– carefree, determined, and certain of her place in this world. I’d like to think that I’ve grown confident in my identity over the years, but I’m only human. Sometimes I succumb to jealousy, or I question if I’m choosing the right path for myself. This speech reminded me that on those days, I should choose to do what makes me happy.
I should choose to be a mermaid.