This is the speech I gave as the student speaker and my University of the Fraser Valley 2017 convocation ceremony on Tuesday June 6
Honoured guests faculty, staff, volunteers, and fellow graduates, family and friends, thank you for this opportunity to share a little of my story with you – and thank you for sharing UFV with me!
The bottom line of what I want to tell you is this – Be the author of your own story. Hold onto that pen with all your might and make sure that YOU’RE the one who decides what happens next. Be the author and write yourself a legend.
First a very brief history – with a lot of interesting bits missing
In 2010, I had the opportunity to go and work with children in the Middle East! The Gaza Strip, to be exact. I went for it. Over there I became very ill – I was hit with encephalitis which is a brain infection and sepsis, which caused multi organ failure because of the infection. I was in a coma for almost a month - my brain sustained serious damage. My prognosis was grave. I was told later that I’d been given a 5% chance of survival and zero chance of making a meaningful recovery.
My neurologist told me the damage to my brain left it more like she sees in her elderly Alzheimer’s patients. I was devastated.
I worked hard to rehabilitate. I began learning to walk again by using one of those “old lady” walkers. I’d keep falling over. I fell over when I’d try to sit up in bed. I fell over a lot. I didn’t know how long my recovery would take, but I just knew I could never give up. Plus, my kids needed me to recover.
And here I am! Eventually, I was ready to get back to work but the job market had changed. I couldn’t rely on my good looks and charming personality to get a decent job anymore. I struggled from one job to another until finally facing the reality that I had to go back to school.
One of my daughters, Emily, attends UFV as a kinesiology student and she had so many great things to say about UFV. With my background in working as an administrative assistant, plus my lifelong interest in all things medical, I decided to apply to the Medical Office Assistant program. The wonderful people in the Continuing Education office helped me through the registration process. It was all so new to me!
Now, I’m done and I achieved a final grade of 96%! Hmmm…Interesting numbers: a 5% chance of survival plus a 96% grade – that makes me 101% grateful!
I loved the challenge of school, the wonderful instructors, the staff, my classmates – and the fact that I finally get to enjoy an honest to goodness university graduation ceremony! UFV has given me so much more than my doctors could ever promise!
I’m motivated to reach higher. I’ve taken a course that has landed me a great job, absolutely, and now, I want to go after my dream. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. Until now it just never seemed to be “my turn”.
I’ve applied to enter the BA in Adult Education program here at UFV. It may look like I’m about 33 years late for my turn at university but I am right on time! I’ve been an “accidental teacher” for as long as I can remember. Soon I’ll get to become a real one!
Remember - Nothing is permanent. Not the highs and not the lows – no matter how they may feel in the moment. Take that next step – whether it is a big leap or a small baby step, it’s still progress! I love the words of Sir Winston Churchill, when he said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts”
Our time here at UFV was not permanent, although there were days when it certainly felt like it. Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns. I urge you to meet them all with hope and courage. The future is unknown, even though some of you probably have a very clear idea of where you want to go. Life has a way of surprising us. Making us work harder, think more creatively, be bolder – than we ever thought possible. But I am here to tell you that it’s worth whatever it takes to keep going.
Whatever happens, be the author of your own story. Be the one who decides how this chapter will end and how the next will begin.
Remember: the ONLY true failure is to give up. If plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 more letters in the alphabet!” Start writing your story over. Be creative. And flexible. Plan M or Plan W might be the real breakthrough!
Every morning when you wake up and feel your heart beating in your chest and your lungs filling with air, know that that is a day full of possibility! Be proud of yourselves and of what you have done – and of what you will continue to do.
I am extremely grateful to have the honour of addressing you today – my classmates, family and friends, my fellow UFV graduates, honoured guests, faculty, staff and volunteers – and especially my kids who are my biggest encouragement, motivation and inspiration, my parents who always believed I could do this and my wonderful Steve who always has my back - this combined abundance of love, hope, and expectation is what makes me excited for what will happen next.
Hold your pen tightly and go write your next chapter!!