Matt Carrington’s Graduation Speech 2018

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Late last night I was driving home to Albury via Griffith on the back roads. There was a truck heading towards me, and a small hill in-between. We both disappeared from each other as we sped closer, the hill blinding us both as we approached it from either end. Upon our passing moment, a small car decided to overtake the truck. Lights going everywhere, and horns being blown I slammed on my breaks as the passing car played chicken with me. With all 3 of us meters away from each other, the car swerved back into the lane in front of the truck and proceeded into the distance in my rear-view mirror. I sat in idle in the middle of the road, as the blood pumped through my body. Thinking. That could have been the last hour of my life. Certainly, gives you a bit of perspective, doesn’t it? Ladies and Gentlemen, Ms Peggy May – thank you for having me here tonight, It is a real privilege. I’ve written this speech on the premise that you have all watched in one medium or another, the play write, “The Lion King”?.

Simba, the son of Mufasa, is born and raised to take over the family empire and become part of the circle of life. Simba and Mufasa go on this lovely walk together through the savanna and discuss the big stuff – Mufasa says – “One day this will all be yours son”, He goes onto say how life works, the do’s and do not’s, passing down the baton so to speak. In a lot of ways, you are experiencing this long walk with your parents and mentors right now.

My fondest memory of school for me was this day. The day that it finished. Graduation. I was never one to be in a classroom, I think, that the teachers that are in here tonight, who taught me, would all agree on this. I remember sitting in the chair that you sit in now, having a profound feeling. A school event – outside of school, but with a glass of wine? Out of uniform, I wasn’t sure who was more out of their comfort zone; myself, my family or my teachers. We were all dressed up, we all appeared to be equal. There were no students in the room. If you haven’t realised, you are now an adult, entirely in control of the steering wheel of your life.

Now, after Simba has this great chat with Mufasa, his eyes light up, he sees all of his opportunities, this endless horizon in front of him. Soon enough he sparks up into song, Singing, “I just can’t wait to be king!” Ecstatic about no one telling him what to do. He screams “I’m going to be the main event like no King was before”, and he’s working on his roar. Well, it’s an inspiring moment in the film. I sang this song on the ride home from a wedding 2-3 weeks ago in the backseat with my old school friends. The lyrics and exciting nature of the tune reminded me of my eagerness when I was your age, a passion for putting my stamp on earth. A desire be my own voice, to make my own decisions, as Simba sung beautifully “Free to run around all day, free to do it all my way!”.

The opportunities that you have at your feet are grand. Whatever aspirations you have in life, you are seated in one of the most prosperous times of civilisation. You live in one of the best countries in the world, and tonight you graduate from a private school that has provided you with a first class Education, but more importantly, a community who will keep you grounded as you step out in the world. The support your family have provided you up until now will serve as a springboard to the challenges that you will face in your future. In short, your toolbox is better than most.

Although we haven’t found true equality in the world today, women can now be engineers, architects and miners, men can be dancers, or nurses and househusbands. Today, someone born in regional Australia, such as yourself has access to almost everything that a privately educated student at Harvard would have. Technology has equalised the platform. If you wish to be the new CEO of Google, practice law in the magic circle, or learn how to fly, you are in the right years of civilisation. If you want to create an empire, be the new Mark Zuckerberg, or the First female elected Prime minister, then it’s sitting right in front of you. If you want to be the king of your jungle, you merely have to go out and get it.

Now, I know it’s not in line with the rest of the Disney storyline, but I’d like you to imagine that Mufusa turns to Simba after he finishes his fabulous song and says, “You will be dead soon son, so best get started”. Something that we don’t think about too often is our expiry date, and when I was 18, I didn’t believe that concept existed. Time for me was infinite, vast and never- ending. Out of all the magical things I have come across in the past 11 years, the one that I have never appreciated until recently is time itself.

The Huffington Post broke down our entire lives into hours spend doing tasks over an 80-year lifespan. 26 years of this is spent doing what we do best – sleeping. That’s just over a third of our lives. With millennials expected to spend another 4 years trying to get to sleep. We spend 13 years working. With an additional 3 years getting ready and to and from work. The list goes on, years spent doing your laundry, exercising, cleaning, eating, studying.

Bottom line – after we get all this done, we have just over 20 years of free time left. Time to go on holidays, spend on romance, do real-time socialising, weekend adventures and time for all your aspirations outside of your chosen work profession. Basically, all the good stuff! However, The Post also says that we, as humans spend 8 years in front of the TV, and another 3 for social media. To make it a tad more overwhelming, as you come up to mark your 20th birthday, you would have already spent four years of this free time. Parents and teachers, you have a lot less time left.

Time is not something that can be bought, borrowed, replaced or swapped out. Once it passes’, it’s gone forever, you can never redo your high school years, how much you studied, who you dated, what you wore and the memories you would or would not like to remember. Your childhood, as you know it, has finished. Tonight marks the end of a significant chapter in your lives and a much bigger one than graduating from school. A common question my friends ask as we look back on our schooling years Is, “if you could do school again, what would you change, as I lean on the edge of 30, I’m sure this will be asked of my 20’s.

I realised I had tied myself down. I found myself working 7 days a week and had become lost in the daily tasks of life. So, I sold the television, deleted social media apps, got rid of the big house and pool that I was always cleaning. Removed unnecessary subscriptions attached to my life. I changed my working environment, removed unnecessary meetings and said no to overtime. Got rid of excess clothes to eliminate laundry time. Stopped buying materialist items and paid off debts.

I now find the time to paint by my dining room window, work on my culinary skills in the kitchen with a glass of wine. I read books and watch TED talks. Embrace nature and ponder on life like Robert frost as much as I can. I try to work for a passion, not a title and I fill my minutes with romance and music, I spend more than doing the things I care for, and not what is in front of me. I fill my life with things that stem from my true aspirations and happiness.

Knowing now, that you have little free time, I wonder if you’re still willing to sacrifice all those years to TV and your phone? Or would you like to replace it with something more significant to you?

What career path will you choose that will generate links to your happiness and aspiration in life? Life is too short to work for someone or something that you don’t love, or at the very least gain from.

Are you willing to sacrifice the next four years of your life at university? Will it contribute to your aspirations, if it does, make it happen, follow your happiness.

If you had to be selfish with your time, would you buy a one- way ticket and travel overseas? Would you walk the Camino or climb Everest? Follow your happiness.

The truth is that it’s your life. Not your parents, not your teachers, not your mentors or your friends. For the first time in your life, you get to fill it with what you would like! It doesn’t matter if you want to live it like Christopher Robin and his friends in the woods or become an astronaut, I encourage you to follow the road that makes you genuinely happy, in the short and long term.

Now Simba goes off on a wrong tangent here, his father dies, and finds a new life in paradise, returns to Hell and “accidentally” kills Scar, Timon and Pumbaa get involved. Basically, Simba does what his father wanted – So not a great finish to help out my argument, so I’m going to finish on a different note.

As society, I believe we mistake the meaning of “success in life” with “success” in general. We say, “Oh She’s so successful, do you know how much money she makes?” We idolise people of fame and power and watch their every move on social platforms. Your success in life doesn’t need to be measured by your bank account, social status, looks, or a position in the company, but more the journey you travel, and how you spend your time on this earth to maximise your true happiness. Your success is from where you started, to where you get to, and how you spent your time in between. You are walking in the savanna, you are about to sing your song. Make it ecstatic, dazzling, memorable. Days are made of hours, and those hours are made of minutes. Don’t waste them on things that don’t make you happier and fulfilled, don’t settle for what society suggests. Time is not something that can be bought, borrowed, replaced or swapped out.

Congratulations to you all for reaching this pivotal point in your life, I wish you all the time in the world.