I had severe writer’s block for a few weeks where I couldn’t even think about writing. During this time, I was writing other papers for a leadership course I am taking. Maybe I’ll share that work with you too someday! But now the creative juices are flowing again and it’s time to get back on track with my writing.
Although the below is pre-written it still gives me the opportunity to critique my skills and to share with you highlights of my life that have led me to this point.
When I was asked to give the keynote address for the Bodden Town Primary School, I wondered what I should say. It’s been 14 years since I left primary school so would I even relate to these students now? I will let you decide at the end.
When I left John a Cumber Primary School and started George Hicks which was the middle school at the time. I remember being scared silly. My first day I got lost, didn’t see any of my old friends and the new uniform was uncomfortable. I thought my life was over and I would fail miserably in life in this foreign land.
So I asked myself what I wish I had known when I graduated from primary school and what lessons I’ve learned since that first day of high school. And as you stand on the threshold of adolescence and prepare to enter high school or as I called it the big pond, there are two things I’ve learned that I want to ask you to be as you move forward. To be a champion, you must 1) Be yourself, 2) be willing to take a chance with something new.
For each of these actions I’ll tell you a story in my life that taught me these lessons in the hopes that you will learn from my mistakes and have a much better experience in high school than I did.
As a teenager, I remember how much I wanted to be part of the cool crowd. The standard uniform was supposed to be below the knee skirt and regular socks that came up just above the ankle . But they had this style back then were all the girls wore these short skirts and knee-high socks. For this to be a style this meant that the girls were breaking the school rules, they were being rebellious. Well I didn’t care because I wanted to be just like them so they could accept me into their group. I went home one day and I told my mom that I wanted to cut my skirt. She was not impressed with this new style so she vetoed my idea.
I tried to hike my skirt higher and pull my socks as far up as they could go and one day I got the opportunity to sit with the cool kids in class and I tried talking to them. Only to find out we had nothing in common and they weren’t very nice. They picked on the other students and made fun of me for my uniform. I was devastated. But then I found some new students who liked me for who I was and the length of my uniform skirt. And one of those friends is still my best friend today. The point I make is that when you try to be like other people, you are telling yourself and others that you are not special, that you are beneath them, that there is something wrong with you.
There is nothing wrong with you. And forget about trying to be perfect. It’s impossible and I should know because I tried for over 10 years to reach it. Katie Couric once said and I believe it, “have the courage to accept that you’re not perfect, nothing is, and no one is – and that’s ok.” Because it is in our imperfections that we find the beauty. Those traits and qualities of yourself that will make you feel so different and awkward right now will be the very same things that allow you to shine bright and take to you higher heights. I was very goofy as a kid and I was ashamed of it before but that goofy side of me is what allowed me to be a youth leader and to stand up here, willing to make fun of myself to get the message across to you. Am I doing ok so far or do I need to do the funky chicken?
Ok. So the first challenge was to be yourself. And second, I want you to be willing to take a chance on something new. Whether that be a new class, sport, or hobby. Otherwise you’ll end up with the “should, coulda, woulda” syndrome where you reach a point of reflection in your life and start saying to yourself, I should’ve tried that cooking class but I’d be embarrassed or I could’ve done the trombone but nobody else was playing it or I would’ve gone to tennis games but I don’t know how to play. Fear can be a crippling disease sometimes. But do you know what FEAR stands for? FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL. Fear will make you believe that mole hills are mountains, that puddles are vast oceans, fear will trick you into believing that you have no talents or skills and your dreams are impossible. Fear will make you want to give up, and give up a lot. I think most people know this about me I’ve said it enough.
But do you know I am terrified of sharks? I’ve never seen one in real life but I’m petrified. When I was 6 years old, the movie Jaws was showing on tv. My mom told me I couldn’t watch it. I decided I didn’t like that idea and I so I watched. I think this is the only time I think fear would’ve been ok, then maybe I wouldn’t be as scared as I am today but even so these are life lessons. Suffice to say that after watching Jaws I did not want to go into the water and when I did I always had this niggling fear that a shark would attack me. This fear gripped me so hard that for 21 years I have not gone diving or swum a long distance. I love the ocean, the marine life, the colours, the sound of the waves and the feel of being under water but I would find any and every excuse to get out of going in deep water. People would look at me in disbelief, asking me, you live on an island but you don’t swim?
And do you know that this past weekend I completed the Flowers One Mile Sea Swim? I swam the whole mile in one hour and 6 minutes. I didn’t see any sharks and I only thought about them once when I saw a sea fan on the sea floor. Afterwards I found out a little 4ft shark was in the area and some of the other swimmers saw it, harmless but I’m glad I didn’t see it. After the swim I felt tired and hungry but I felt great. And I’m ready for the next swim already. So you see, I let fear keep me away from something I love that I could have been enjoying all this time. I could’ve been representing Cayman at the Olympics by now if I had been courageous back then.
I share my story hoping that you will not let that happen to you. Your fears will be different from mine but the point is that you can’t let fear stop you. If you want to try a new sport, go for it, want to sign up for the chess club, do it, you want to take an exchange class and go study in China, do it. In the words of Denzel Washington “I found that nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks” Now this doesn’t meant to be impulsive and play with guns or try those insane challenges on social media, some of which are life threatening. Take calculated risks. Think about the consequences, if it will not harm yourself or those around you, then you think about the results and the benefits of trying it.
As I close, I’m reminded of your theme song, Hall of Fame, which talks about going the distance and all the things you can achieve. You can be the master, you can be the hero, you can get the gold. You’ll be standing in the hall of fame and the world’s going to know your name. As you embark on this new journey in high school, remember these two things if you want to stand in the Hall of Fame, be yourself and be willing to take a chance on something new. Congratulations on your achievement and all the best in your school career.
Thank you for listening.
I believe in practicing what I preach so I’m not letting fear of criticism hold me back from sharing. In fact, I welcome your comments! 🙂
Writing and sharing with the public is a new experience for me and it has caused me to grow so much as a person.
Thank you for following me on my journey!
Until next time.