18 June 2013

The Undergraduate

3 years, 1,095 days, 26,280 hours, 1,576,800 minutes. A process that cultivates perseverance and puts into question where this will all lead. An undergraduate degree. 

Last Tuesday was a momentous moment in my life. As I sat in the humongous Wilfred-Pelletier Hall at Place des Arts, surrounded by about 800 graduates and their families, waiting for my name to be called, I thought back on the past three years. Back to my first university class in the FG building on St. Catherine's street Ouest... 'where the eff is that!?' I thought about Sara Terreault and Penny Pastermajian, the two teachers who encouraged the notion that books do not always give us the practical knowledge that life does- that there is more to school than memorizing facts and formulas.  I thought about the people I've met, and the lessons I've learned. As Romeo Dallaire gave his speech, I thought about the greatness I've witnessed. I thought about my own triumphs and inevitably, the challenges I've overcome. I thought about my city, Montreal, and how lucky I was to be able to study in such a diverse and culturally enriching environment. As I walked across the stage, the fondest of all my university memories came rushing back to me. My time spent abroad - studying in the beautiful city of Florence. Perhaps it was the wine, or the constant sunshine and endless summer nights that influenced me, but it was Florence that taught me the truest lesson of them all. There, I learned that life is meant to be lived and that school comes as a close second to the lessons that life teaches you.  

In retrospect, my university degree is far more than a piece of paper attesting to my specialization. My degree is a cumulation of experiences and  life lessons that will lead me into the future, with new-found meaning, and new perspectives.   

I'd like to share a poem by Rudyard Kipling entitled "If". This poem has been near and dear to me for a number of years, and I've been dying to share it here on the blog. 


If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!



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