"I’m not talking about the stuff that can be measured.
I’m talking about the stuff that actually matters.
I’m talking about moments."
Buenos Noches, Dobry Wieczór and a very Good evening to you all- ladies, gentlemen, boys and girls, students of all ages, Administration officials, Faculty, Families, friends and of course, any random banquet servers.
So first off, I am ridiculously proud and deeply honored to have this opportunity to speak tonight. I’m pretty sure that if someone had told me when I first started at ILIS that I would end up receiving the President’s Award- I probably would have looked at them blankly and been like “Wait.. we have a President? That's cool I guess, but can you help me log in to Windows?”
I would like to preface things with a quote I rediscovered recently; Maya Angelou once said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." For those of you who know me, I’m sure you can attest that I try to be honest and have a sense of humor and most importantly a sense of humility about myself as well as what I do. For those of you that don’t know me- you are very welcome in advance.
Now, full disclosure here; maybe someone saw my capstone notes or maybe my reputation really does precede me- but I have been advised under no uncertain terms to swear at all while I’m up here. So, unfortunately that means I can not tell you what I first thought when I found out I’d be making the big speech- but what I can tell you is that this speech has not just been extremely difficult for me to write, but without a doubt one of the most stressful projects I’ve ever been involved with. It wasn’t the speaking part, or the writing part and I’m definitely no stranger being in front of large crowds. Having the luck of being friends with past graduate speakers, the degree of seriousness and importance of it is absolutely not lost on me. Which begged the question- why did this matter to me so much?
As I was trying to figure that out, I thought back to this conversation that I had had with an fairly well known ILIS instructor. Now, I’m going to do my absolute best to keep this instructor anonymous- but I will say that we were having the first of many conversations about time.. We were in his office after class and I had been saying something to the effect of "Well, y'know, I think that time is just like, a construct of man? Like, a means of adding this value and like, structure to this just chaotic universe, and it doesn't serve any real purpose, y'know cause it's just like endless? And infinite? Like you can’t really fathom all of it, it’s just so completely subjective"
To which the instructor said "That’s cute."
"But you are wrong, and you were still forty five minutes late."
So the more and more I thought about being up here, the more and more I thought of that conversation. I just kept coming back to it in terms of thinking about time and your perspective, especially in regards to today. But why was this bothering me so much? What is it that makes today so significant? So I wondered- well what day is it? And that’s when it came to me.
Today is a day which a lot of us have been looking forward to since “A long time ago..”. A day when we can finally look at the future with a renewed optimism but still kind of fearful of what could go wrong. It’s a day when we might think about what has come before - both the good and the bad. That’s right. It’s December 18. AND ON DECEMBER 18- next year- THE FORCE AWAKENS! THE NEW STAR WARS MOVIE COMES OUT IN EXACTLY ONE YEAR BABY!! BOOM!!!
Seriously though, unless we ALL just happen to be cosplaying as The Emperor, I don’t think these are the droids you’re looking for, by which I mean I don’t think this is the reason why we’re all wearing these robes. No- we’re all here today, December 18- 2014- because we’ve finished our collegiate endeavors. We’re Graduating . Now, I can’t speak for all of you, or your loved ones for just how important this moment is, but judging by what I’ve seen today and the amount of people I see out there tonight supporting all of our graduates, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that this is a huge moment. A game changer. But, for myself, the game actually changed a long time ago.. You see, tonight, this moment, this is the end. The end result of a decision that I made way back in 2010, which brings us to tonight- four and a half- almost FIVE years later.
FIVE. YEARS. I’ll let you sip on that for just a second. I should add, not to scare off any potential students that might be listening, that’s probably a couple years longer than how long most of you ended up being a student for. In my defense though, I did switch majors after two years and took several summers off. But still– five years...
And the more I thought about that, honestly I started to get pretty depressed. Not like I regretted my decision, but it was more like I started to think about how many times I parked in “my spot” in the west lot, and how many times I grabbed some Panera- even though I had sworn the day before that I would never go there again. I thought about how many times Brother Ali told me “Looking good Mister Erich.” I thought about how many Venti Pike Places and Dopio Espressos I'd had from Starbucks, but then I thought about how much money I spent and then I really got depressed.
But really, I started to think a lot about how, even though it was only five years, just how much had changed since I’ve been in school.
See, when I started – The “cloud” wasn’t quite a reality and a space jump was still totally sci-fi.
We didn’t have a crush on candy or think that birds should be angry (let alone flappy).
Miley was still a kid, Minions were still people, and "Mine" wasn’t a "craft".
We didn’t know that Harlem would shake, Gangam was a style, or that an Ice Bucket could ever prove challenging to anyone, let alone so many at once.
Rainbows doubled and cats got grumpy;
Thursdays got thrown back, and Friday- well, Friday, Friday, apparently ya just gotta get down on Friday.
And we had YOCTO, ZEPTO, ATTO, FEMTO, PICO, NANO, MICRO, MILLI, CENTI, DECI, DECA, HECTO, KILO, MEGA, GIGA, TERA, PETA, EXA, ZETTA, YOTTA- but absolutely no INSTA grams.
We didn’t have the words Superstorm, Thundersnow or Polar Vortex in our vocabulary.
We also hadn’t seen terrible images of earthquakes in Haiti, or a tsunami in Japan. We just couldn’t imagine a completely flooded New York City.
I had never heard of a ‘Mitt Romney’ or a ‘Honey Boo Boo’. I didn’t know who Laurie Blue Adkins or Sonny John Moore were- or as they are known now Adele and Skrillex. The names Katniss Everdeen, Daryl Dixon and Jaimie Lanister meant nothing.
The Tonight Show was Jay Leno. Benedict wore a funny hat cause he was the Pope not Sherlock.
Five years of just not paying a lot of attention to global "weirding".
Five years of maybe missing out on new and improved technology and entertainment.
And we can't forget- it was five years of losses.
JD Salinger, who was still a sought after recluse. Artistic visionaries- Moebius, Giger, McQuarrie. Creatives like Alexander McQueen, Thomas Kincade, Tony Scott, and Adam Yauch. The brilliance of not just Maya Angelou- but also Maurice Sendak, Ray Bradbury, Gore Vidal and Christopher Hitchens. Comedians like Leslie Nielsen and Robin Williams. Paul Walker, James Gandolfini, Dennis Hopper, Elizabeth Taylor still put on a show.
People that changed our perception of the world, were suddenly no longer a part of it.
Yet five years went by just like that.
We like to think that we can measure time. But really, how long is a moment? Because everything can change in a just moment, and just look at how much has changed.
Five years ago a unified health system in the US was a pipe-dream at best.
Five years ago the Higgs Boson was still a theory.
Five years ago we didn’t have cars driving themselves through major cities.
Five years ago printing was relegated to two dimensions, certainly not THREE.
Suffice to say- a lot has changed in the world since we started at ILIS.
And honestly? I think the one of the biggest changes- we didn't even notice. The proof is that we are here now. We've changed!
And just to be clear I’m not talking about surface changes.
For myself it's not the three jobs I’ve had, or going from being single to being in a relationship; it’s not about upgrading phones or newer laptops; it’s not about switching majors or preferring 2D to 3D. It has nothing to do with the 521 tutorials or 18 courses or 62 cumulative hours of Digital Tutors I’ve watched or even the 57 books I’ve checked out from the library. I’m not talking about the length of my hair or how much I might have let my beard go.
I’m not talking about the stuff that can be measured.
I’m talking about the stuff that actually matters.
I’m talking about moments.
Brief moments- like when I’ve caught a glimpse of that person I set out to be five years ago, of the man that I hope stands before you today.
And I’m talking to you; I’m talking to the audio technicians and the fashion marketers; the videographers and animators; the compositors and hospitality managers, the project managers and back end developers. I’m talking to the creatives that are taking the place of who we used to be.
I truly hope that everyone here has shared with me this momentous transformation, this incredible evolution. There has been such a core fundamental inversion of who I am, and what I care about; how I think and what I value. What I do every day and what I plan for the next day. Five years ago I was a complete introvert! Now though- now I NEED people to share their passions and imaginations; their perspectives and critiques; their stories.
And this- this is the single greatest resource, the greatest asset, the greatest tool for creation that I’ve discovered in school. It was not made by Apple or Microsoft, Canon or Nikon, Unreal or Unity, Autodesk or Maxon, Revit, or Caledo, Avid or Adobe, any of those.
It was us. It was you.
It was the people I collaborated with. It was the people I trained with and learned how to speak in my new creative tongue. It was the people that made it so this wasn’t work, this wasn’t school- dude this was fun! It was the people that pushed me to be better and the people that I tried to help pull up. It was the people that called me out on when I slacking off and the people that inspired me to push beyond what I thought was my best. It was even the people that stole my work- but especially the people that came to help out at two o'clock in the morning.
I truly, truly hope that every single one of you has found at least a few relationships like this while at ILIS because then you already know what I’m about to say: these are not just your classmates, and they aren’t your competition either. Some may have referred to them as a “network”, but in truth they are so much more than that. They are your brethren. They are your tribe. They are your family. And today we celebrate with both our design families as well as our real families. We celebrate another moment.
A moment of great change in ourselves. If the last five years has taught me anything, any change is really just a matter of perspective, and at this moment of commencement we must remember that our perspective is still fresh and ripe for growth. Today we celebrate being born again, with new names, new personalities, maybe even new titles. We speak a new language and will undoubtedly stumble and fall as we learn to use these new creative muscles. So in a lot of ways, we’re basically children.
I’m sure a lot of you have heard the phrase “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways”. As we celebrate our graduation and move forward, we may be prone to thinking that that is exactly what we should be doing. But think back about how much has changed since you’ve started and just try to imagine all the changes that will happen from here on out.
I suggest instead, that making the decision to go to school and educate yourself was one of the most adult decisions you could have possibly made. But now that you’ve graduated, don’t think like an adult.
Think like a professional AND a kid.
Because school's out.
So let's get outside and GO PLAY.