Two days ago I graduated from college with a degree in Creative Writing. I was also Pacific University’s 2019 Valedictorian. With the honor came the huge responsibility of giving a speech in front of thousands of people, providing insight and wisdom, along with a dash of humor, all in a 2-3 minute time frame. It was daunting, to say the least. Daunting that is, until I received a great piece of advice from my favorite professor: write about your truth.

I found that my truth, at least of my college experience, was the profound impact of stories. And from there, I ran with the idea. Attached below is the transcript of my speech:

Thank you Provost Miller for the wonderful introduction, and thank you to everyone that has made it here today to celebrate the graduation of Pacific University’s Class of 2019. Before I begin, I would like to give an extra big thank you to all of the professors who have taught, mentored and imparted their knowledge to us. You have changed our lives in immeasurable ways.

Now, if you learned one thing from my introduction, it would be that I am a writer. I see the world in stories. Pacific is chock full of them. From the people I pass on the way to Marsh Hall to the snippets of overheard conversation in the UC, everything holds the potential to inspire, be it a character or a line of dialogue.

College has given me an abundance of stories. I’m sure each and every one of us has tales from our time here that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives. Some are happy, like a buzzer beater overtime victory, and some are painful, like health problems, financial issues, heartbreak, failed exams, and learning for the umpteenth time that life just isn’t fair. But every single experience has shaped us into the people that we are today. And now, as we stand on the cusp of a new chapter, we have a wonderful choice.

See, if you’re an author, there is always an agonizing moment where you have to sit down to a blank page and a blinking cursor and write. You have to pull a story from thin air and make it breathe on the page. Let me tell you, it’s not easy. There is nothing more intimidating than not knowing what’s coming next. For those of us graduating, poised with our degree in one hand and our dreams in the other, that is where we stand today. The sprawling expanse of possibility lies before us, both tantalizing and terrifying all at once.

Yet, I’ve found that the cure to writer’s block is to just start writing. The time has come to start crafting our own stories, and believe me when I say, it never goes according to plan. Stories have minds of their own. The important part is that you start, and start with a vengeance. Chase dreams, chase jobs, chase experiences, chase what makes you happy. Because right now, inside each and everyone one of us, a story is waiting to be told.

So today, as we finish up the latest chapter of our lives, I leave you with this. I started writing what is now my senior thesis during my sophomore year of high school. Yes, it has haunted me for six whole years. In the story, a young woman has lived her entire life in virtual reality, until one day she wakes up to the real world and must find who she truly is. We’re all in the same situation: stepping out into the unknown on a journey of self-discovery.

The reason this story has stayed with me is 1. Because writers are obsessive. Ask any writer, they’ll back me up. And 2. Because it’s a story worth telling. Everyone here today has their own powerful story to which they alone hold the pen. And every story deserves to be told in it’s own uniquely beautiful way. But hey, at the end of the day, I write my own stories. It’s up to you to write yours.

Thank you.