Last Lecture

“Somebody once told me the definition of hell: On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” — Anonymous

What if a demon slithered up to you after your graduation, and forced you to relive all of highschool?

No, not just the dances and the weekends, but every single moment. Would you scream, fall to the ground, and curse the demon? Or would you call him an angel and plead to do it again? Are you ready to walk down the middle school hallway an infinity more times? Are you willing to put on a polo every morning until Maeser’s logo is permanently stuck to your chest?

Along with the joy, are you willing to reenact the routine, the broken relationships, the depression, the rejection, the failures, the boredom, the ugliness that comes packaged with every beautiful experience? I don’t care if you’re a senior or a 7th grader – could you affirm your life so far without a doubt? Could you live it again and again until each second becomes familiar? Do you want this – all of this – again, and countless times more?

If not, then start living so you can say yes to every single moment.

How can you live this way? Well, as usual, the answer you need is not what you’d like to hear: Don’t be yourself. Be more. Dare to reach outside of what you normally call yourself.

For most of highschool, I was exactly what others expected of me, and what I expected of myself. I was never anything but my usual self. But I needed to let go of those comfortable habits that are wearing away at my potential; I needed to I stop being me and start being more.

Stop wandering the halls aimlessly, thinking of people in terms of stereotypes and first impressions. Stop looking at a person and assuming you know who they are. Start learning names and seeing eyes.

Stop walking past the teacher’s door, glancing in, afraid to enter. Start building relationships with these spectacular people who can be your inspirations and your mentors.

Stop ignoring your Socratic books and stop skimming sparknotes the day of the test. Start learning so passionately that you can’t remember what the assignment was.

Stop listening to to music you don’t love because you feel like you should. Stop pretending you’re a baller because you wear joggers with fake yeezys. Stop thinking you’re edgy because you use words like ‘edgy.’ Stop bragging about how much you’ve procrastinated. Stop thinking that you have enough time. Stop being yourself, and start being more.

In every typical suburban Utah house, right in between the picture of six kids and the religious painting, there’s a cute little sign that says: Remember who you are. But in some ways, that’s bad advice. So much joy can come when you who you’re supposed to be just slips your mind.

Some of your greatest moments will come when you forget who you are. The only reason I tried out for the soccer team was because I forgot I was supposed to be the awkward kid who reads philosophy books and talks too much in Socratic. Because I stopped being myself, I suffered through hours of sprints and San Diegos; weeks of stinging turf burns and soreness; food fights and brawls on a cramped bus; the painful inadequacy of missed passes. At the end of it all, I found unexpected strength and friends I never would have had otherwise.

The only reason I took AP Calculus is because I forgot I’m bad at math. I barely kept up in Math One; I was mocked in elementary school for fumbling at long division and staring blankly at equations. For me, watching people manipulate numbers was like chasing cars on the freeway; I couldn’t possibly keep up. But eventually, I decided to stop being myself, and I signed up for Calculus.

Do what you can’t. Whenever there is something you are afraid of, something you would love but you know you’ll never do – that is what you need to do. You know what I’m talking about. The girl. The performance. The adventure. Stop avoiding them. Start scaring yourself every day. If you jump off the cliff, you have no need to explain yourself to those who stand and watch.

Don’t be yourself.

Stop ‘discovering yourself.’ Stop waiting to stumble upon who you really are. You are more than just you; who you are striving to become. As Nietzsche said, “your true self does not lie buried deep within you, but rather rises immeasurably high above you, or at least above what you commonly take to be yourself.”

Stop looking for yourself and start building yourself.


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