To the future generation of Fairfield University, I offer my hand and heart as a welcome to all of you. I had initially begun this piece by offering my welcome to the future explorers, scholars, economists, scientists and so forth. However, I have come to find those labels tend to place limitations on the truly expansive being that is each of you, for you are so much more than a designated major or career aspiration.
I advise you to think of yourselves not as future doctors, teachers or writers but as infinitely complex constructs of life. It may seem strange to view yourself in this light, for the entirety of our journey on this Earth, we have been trailed and assaulted with who and what we should be. Far too often we let the observations and opinions of others define and confine our ultimately unnamable and boundless soul. However, we are not completely helpless in the face of such manipulation. In fact, within ourselves lies the ability to redefine what it means to be us.
This is both our greatest strength and our most debilitating weakness. While we have the ability to shape and mold our existence into whatever we please, we must also overcome ourselves in order to see this reality blossom. It may seem cliché and many of you may not truly understand the depth of this statement yet, but we are truly our own worst enemy. For it is not your friends or parents who decide to act upon labels and limitations, but yourself.
This is something that I have and continue to struggle with as I write this greeting to you all. I tell you this not because I wish to have you know me intimately, but to show you that the solution to who we’re supposed to be is not a straightforward one. Truthfully, the most difficult challenge we will face during our time on this Earth is self-discovery. Along each of our odyssey’s we will have many questions: Where do I belong? Where can I see myself in the future? What do I want to do? Who am I? It just so happens that many of these questions are unequivocally linked with the Jesuit values that Fairfield University praises. As such, you may find that the answers to these questions are not as far away as you believe them to be.
Although, it is common for the universe to reject our plea to have it show us the true meaning of our existence or our destiny. Perhaps this is because we have found ourselves driven towards a purpose in an inherently purposeless world. In that sense, we are unique from every other creature that walks the Earth: we live for and in tandem with a definition of self, individual truth, and purpose.
It may seem a daunting task to look into the eyes of fate and see only a reflection of yourself, and not the person you will be. Many of you will spend the next four years poking and prodding at yourselves in an attempt to find something to be. Although, it may be more correct to say that we shred and tear ourselves to pieces in order to find the meaning of our life. It is exactly this that I hope to steer you away from, for it is nothing more than an illusion. The search for our place in this world need not be such an active task. In forcing the hands of fate we only endeavor to seal the secrets within even tighter. So, I ask you to instead live life as presently as you can and take control of your attention. Enjoy what life has come to offer and live simply. In turn, life will reward you with the fulfillment you seek. In the words of the great American contemporary writer and philosopher, Henry D. Thoreau: “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify”.
I would like to turn your attention to the stars illuminating the surface of our night sky. From afar, each star looks no different from the last. However, if we are to look deeply at each of these planetary centers, we find something far different than the monogamy we are accustomed to. We find colors that even the most revered artist could only dream of using: soft yellows, blinding whites, deep blues and searing reds. We find stars of all shapes and sizes: some as large as the most expansive solar systems and others as tiny as the smallest moons. Some rage in the face of the suffocating darkness they call home, while others take a vow of solemn silence. So, choose to see yourself as a star, one that is irrefutably unique from every other star on this planet we call home.
Unfortunately, we are nearing the end of this wonderful moment we have both shared and I hope that the advice that I have given you will be of some use. As one final piece of advice I would like to turn the lens upon myself once more; Although selfish, it is necessary to help you understand this last piece of guidance. I did not always believe what I have written on this paper. In fact, much of this is new to me — I’m a newbie, you might say. In truth, I am neither an english nor philosophy major, but a student of biology. I have found myself on this path, not because of something I actively searched for, but rather a class that was far from the major I was aiming to achieve. It opened my eyes and my heart to many ideas that I had previously been closed off to. So I tell you this, while it is important to focus on the classes required by your major, do not close yourself off to the core requirements. If you do this, you will come to find that they can teach you many important lessons — they may even change the person you want to be.