Student Commencement Speech
Sonoma State University, May 27, 2000

Laura Odeh portrait, 2000

Laura Odeh

I’ve spent weeks trying to think of what it is I’d like to share with you on this special morning… what words of wisdom I could possibly impart, what bits of knowledge I have obtained during these past five years that I could share. And after careful deliberation and consideration, I came to the conclusion that I have absolutely nothing to say. I’ve asked several people, "So, like, if you were listening to a speech, and, like, you wanted to enjoy it… what would you want to hear?" And these several people all had the same reply, "Don’t be boring." So, that was a really big help.

I refuse to start out with some sort of typical, "My fellow graduates…" introduction, and I’ll be gosh-darned if I start with a quote, like, "As Shakespeare once said…".. Basically, I realized that I’m walking away with a degree in Physics, and I cannot compose a simple graduation speech. Someone needs to explain to me how I can complete five years of college and leave here incapable of delivering a simple speech. I’m a little bitter.

The problem is that I’m not sure whether the lessons I’ve learned are the types of things you talk about in a speech like this. Most of the graduation speeches I’ve heard seem to be along the lines of, "You are the future! You are the promise of tomorrow! Dream and you will succeed!" And that’s really great; those are nice things to hear. But I can honestly say that I have never reached a difficult moment in my life and then thought, "I didn’t know what to do, but then I remembered something my graduation speaker once said, and everything fell into place!" So, I’m not here to give advice, and I’m not here to impart words of wisdom, and I’m not here to inspire you to succeed. I would just like to wish you all the good and bad luck in the world.

Good people, well-meaning people, will say, "Congratulations. We wish you success and happiness." And I wish for that as well. I wish for the fun and challenging job with a fair and decent boss, the nice home with coordinated furniture, a spacious closet with plenty of shoes inside. I hope for a car that works, and a dog, maybe named Roger, that rides in the passenger seat and sticks his head out the window. I hope for close friends and long talks, sushi dinners and lots of laughing. I hope for evenings in the city and the sleepy car-ride home. I hope for good movies and bad movies, the ones that you can make fun of. I hope for bare feet on hot cement in the summer and soft warm blankets in the winter. I hope for bright moonlight, pepperoni pizza, falling in love, a view out my window, rice krispie treats, road trips, music, hot showers, dinner parties, picking someone up from the airport, chocolate, inside jokes, lying around on the sofa, books that you can’t put down, sleep…

And these good, well-meaning people wish us a life with as little pain as possible.

I hope for heartbreak.

I hope for dreams not realized. I hope for driving in traffic and someone flipping you off. I hope for coming home and finding out that someone ate the leftover Chinese food you’ve been thinking about all day. I hope for deadlines and anxiety. I hope for stubbed toes. I hope for headaches, hunger, finding out that another person hates you. I hope for ordering a burger without onions and biting into a huge onion. I hope for jealousy. I hope for interrupted sleep, canceled plans, waiting for a phone that will never ring. Being used. Loving someone that doesn’t love you back. Burning your dinner. Paper cuts. Making another person cry. Losing. Being lied to. Waking up five minutes before the alarm is supposed to go off. Missing your flight. Spilling your drink. Breaking a dish. Arguments over stupid things. Sunburns. Saying goodbye…

You may never be a CEO. You may never win an Oscar. You may never sing at the Met. You may never get married and have a family. But this is your story. That’s it. One shot.

Feel it all.

I don’t have the faintest idea what’s going to happen, and I think it’s great. I’ve spent five years trying to figure out what I should be doing the moment this ceremony is over, and I still don’t have an answer. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s perfect. If we knew life’s outcome, what would be the point of going through it? It’s a story, and it’s yours, and whatever happens just make sure you feel your life.

One shot.

My fellow graduates, as Shakespeare once said, "The readiness is all."

Sonoma State University Department of Physics and Astronomy