Tonight, I was able to fulfill one of my favorite jobs I have as a Director on the Idaho Virtual Academy Board. I was asked to address the graduating class of 2014.
This was my second time speaking at graduation and I am always nervous ahead of time. I don't want to be boring, but I want to share something that will hopefully benefit at least one graduate. I had a bit of a hard time deciding what I speak about, but, I feel good about what I came up with.
It was an incredible graduation. IDVA has such a personal, warm way of putting together the program. Our students are an inspiration. One student who really impressed me is our Salutatorian. He is from Menan (just down the road from Rigby) and he received a $50,000 scholarship to a school in Montana to study microbiology. He is going to change our world.
I wish my family had been able to see me speak, but Sam had to work and I didn't dare bring 5 kids to sit alone while I sat up on the stage. I had a wonderful time shaking the hands of all those graduates. Plus, the news arrived and I even have a teeny cameo at the very end. (I nearly got roped into being interviewed, but thank goodness our Head of School was available to be fabulous and handle that job.)
Anyhow, here is my speech. I had pictures on a screen as I spoke, so I put those pictures up on this post at the times I used them. I pulled a chunk of my speech of a blog post I had written previously and I think I am happy I did.
Good evening IDVA graduating class of 2014! On behalf of the board of directors, I am honored to be here to see you take this exciting step in your lives today. What you have accomplished these past years is a wonderful foundation for you to build the rest of your lives upon.
As you reflect on the years leading up to this, I am certain you had moments when you were sure that you would never make it to this day. Those assessments just kept getting harder, the scantrons would never end and of course… the OLS is having technical difficulties, please stand by? But, you made it, you did the work, you logged in your attendance and you are here. You climbed that mountain and made it to the top and I am guessing the view is rather fantastic.
I had a recent experience climbing my own mountain that I would like to share today. Well, actually, it was a volcano. This past April, I was invited to participate in a trail run challenge. It was a 12k run up, around and down the Menan Buttes, an old dormant volcano.
I had never been to the Buttes and I had never run on a trail before. But, I ran a half marathon on my treadmill once and I can knock out a 10k pretty easily any day of the week, plus I have camped before so I had a pretty clear vision of this beautiful run through trails with a few rocks here and there and a babbling brook to leap over… maybe some woodland creatures would sing to me. My husband tried to warn me that it may be a smidge harder than I was envisioning, but he can only run a 5k easily so I figured he was being a pessimist. Even the map said it was the “Toughest Trail Run in Idaho”, but I assumed they were exaggerating.
I arrived at the Buttes that morning very excited to run. My biggest concern was that I hadn’t loaded a good playlist to run to. When we started on a dirt road, I got excited just thinking about passing people and how fast I would run. This was easy, it was just running on a dirt road!
Then, we started up the Butte.
It seemed strange to me that everyone was walking uphill, but, hey, I figured I should follow the crowd for now and start passing early. There were people coming down from the 25k at this point who were running. I was impressed, but not as impressed as I was going to be a bit later.
Now, if you look here, we had to hike all the way up. I did not realize this. I was walking fast and working hard, trying to get ahead of people. I was going and going and going and suddenly I was lightheaded and barely able to move. It had gotten really steep really fast. Steep enough that there was a chain you could hold on to so you didn't fall. It was slick and I was exhausted only a mile and a quarter in. I was trying too hard and it felt like the climb was never ending and I was trying to will myself to go... but my body refused and I stopped.
I sat down right there on a rock and I just breathed.
People were passing me looking concerned and I just didn't care.
I sat there and thought and prayed and tried to decide if I really wanted to take another step or if I could sit there and someone would take me home or if I would have to walk down. Someone passing me said, "you are almost at the top, go a little further," but I didn't. I just sat there, trying to decide if I wanted to run this for me, or if I would accept defeat. Finally, I decided I wanted to just get to the top and then I would decide because sitting on that rock was uncomfortable anyhow. So, I got up and I climbed the rest of the agonizing way up.
That person was right. I had been almost there.
Lesson 1: It feels hardest when we are nearly to the top.
I got up there and drank some water, chatted with the photographer and asked how the rest of the run was. I knew I was not doing any more if it was that bad the entire way. She assured me it was all "easy" from there on out and I would be fine. I said, "Easy? Really?" and she said (oh so casually), "Well, it's all relative."
It's all relative. We'll come back to that.
So, I "took off".
I started walking downhill, grateful for the ease. Then it got less easy and more of a steep and slippery downhill. I ran as carefully as I could so I would save my knees.
I hit a "gentle rolling hill" section and let me tell you, that is not so much gentle as jarring.
I got higher and higher and this is what I saw along the way.
It was pretty amazing to see all of that.
Every so often, someone would run right past me. I was in awe at how they were actually able to run when I could barely keep myself at a speedy walking pace.
I was starting to doubt my fitness level.
But, I kept going and soon I reached a place where I had to climb up the rocks.
I did and I found some ladies resting at the top. They offered to take my picture.
We were a little over halfway done and I was feeling proud, so I decided I needed a triumphant pose.
I now see this is less majestic and more "cheerleader at the top of the pyramid".
After my photo op, I watched this guy climb up this next hill while everyone else was skidding around the side. What they were doing looked so hard. So, I followed this guy. It was a challenging, but fun climb up. When I got up there I thanked him for climbing up because it showed me how to do it and he said, "everyone was just following each other on that hard path when we could all go this way and it is the same distance." Plus, the view was amazing.
Lesson 2: Following the crowd doesn't always mean it will be easier and you may miss out on something wonderful if you do. Don't be afraid to be different.
At this point I felt able to run for a few miles. This is a point that got really fun. I was running as much as I could and people were passing me. But, no one was pointing and laughing because I was slow. No, I was getting thumbs up and encouragement. It helped me and made me go faster. I started doing it when I was passing by other people too and that made me even more energized. It felt awesome to be supporting everyone out there and feeling like I was being supported too, even though we were really all running our own race at that point.
Lesson 3: Be positive. Encourage everyone you see and focus on the encouragement they give you.
I wasn’t able to get shots of the last half of the run. I was so tired and mentally taxed and some of the markers on the trail had blown away so I was struggling to find my way back off the volcano! Finally I learned to just look down and follow the footprints of people who had already run through. Whenever I got off their trail, I would just backtrack until I found them again. It was hard and it slowed me down, but I didn't get lost.
Lesson 4: When we can't find the way, we need to look for the "footprints" of those who have come before us and trust that they know the way.
Finally, back to the beginning. The place where I nearly quit.
This time, I walked down it slowly and carefully. I didn't care who passed me, I just wanted to get down. My legs were shaking, they were so tired. I hit the very last straight and somewhat flat area and I loped on to the end. I did it. Yes, I didn't do it fast, but I did it.
Now, you could tell me I was crazy to go out and do a run that I knew nothing about for no reason other than to see if I could. But, that is another lesson I am happy I learned. My two favorite lessons came at the end.
Lesson 5: Be brave. Do something without knowing how it will end and don’t be afraid to fail. Just enjoy the ride.
Lesson 6: It is all relative. When we compare how we are doing to others, we short ourselves. Some people sprinted through that run. Some walked. I ran, walked, climbed and crawled and even sat. It was mildly challenging to crazy hard, depending on the person. It is all relative.
Today, you are on top of the mountain, or volcano if you prefer. The view is incredible and what you have accomplished is enormous. But, it isn’t the end. You still have work to do. You are going to have moments when you are running ahead of the crowd and loving every moment. You will have times that you are climbing and climbing and you feel like the road you are on will never end. You will have moments you want to sit down and quit. In those easy moments and in those hard moments, please be brave. Remember not to compare yourself to others, put out positive energy to others and most of all, value the lows for the lessons you learn and savor the highs because they are so much sweeter when you have earned them.
Once again, I congratulate you, class of 2014. Enjoy the view, you have earned it.