In his parting words to the class of 2016, Adrian Rivera explains what he thinks are the components of a good life.
High School. Two words that, for most people, evoke a variety of emotions. Some remember the Friday Night Lights while others remember nights spent studying for a smorgasbord of standardized tests. Some think back to fun times with friends while others recount tales of loneliness, loss, and depression. Some remember the best years of their lives; others do not. Whatever we may think when we hear those two monosyllabic words, I think it is fair to say that at the very least, High School is an experience.
For me, High School was an experience full of potential. There were so many variables, so many decisions, so many roles that I decided to play, that when taken together, are the sum of who I am today. Things could be so different than they are right now. So much has been granted to me by fortune, by privilege or by divine providence. Things have always seemed to work out for me, even when I was faced with immediate failures.
My good fortune has taught me that gratitude is one aspect of living “a good life.”
We must be grateful that we live in a country that, while stricken with numerous problems that must be addressed, is filled with boundless opportunities, allowing the children and grandchildren of former slaves, farmhands, and immigrants to make a name for themselves and for their posterity. We must be grateful for those in our lives that love us, even if those people may not be our parents. The teachers that encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone, the friends that are there for you any time of the day or night, the custodian that has greeted you every morning for the last 4 years with a wide, toothy grin, all love you to some degree. How have I arrived at this conclusion? For me, to love is to give, and to give selflessly.
In order to live a good life, we must have love in our lives. We must be on the receiving end of love, but most importantly, we must give love – to our partners, to our family members, to the stranger on the corner, to everyone and anyone we meet. If to love is to give, what shall we give? We can give a whole slew of things, but at the end of the day, the most valuable, important thing that we can give to someone is our time, whether that be in the form of a greeting, a ready ear, or an evening set aside for conversation.
It is far too seldom that we think about time – how we spend it, how we waste it, and how much we have left of it. Whether we like it or not, we must acknowledge that one day, our time will run out. We must acknowledge that those we love have finite times on this Earth just like we do. We must recognize that life is too short to spend time with people or preoccupations that bring you down.
To be grateful, to give love freely, to be conscious of our time on this Earth; these are no easy tasks. We live in a society that tells us we must always desire the next, best thing, that what we have is never, and will never be, enough. Only if we buy products that make us skinnier, richer, cooler, sexier, smarter, better, will we ever be happy.
We live in an age where we can reach friends and loved ones on the other side of the world with the click of a button, and yet we grow increasingly disconnected by the day. We are taught to guard our hearts, lest we “catch feelings.” We live in a world where problems will be solved “later”, where their effects will be felt “later”, where the only thing that matters is the now — too bad we are using “the now” to check our Facebook feeds.
I want to use this address as a call to action. Though we will experience trials and tribulations that make us forget how lucky we are, though we will suffer heartbreaks that make us swear off love forever, and though we will continue to waste time on things that don’t deserve a fraction of a second, know that these moments will pass. Know that you really you are blessed in at least a hundred ways, know that you will find love and love will find you, know that you will experience grand and beautiful and wonderful things that make you wish you could stop time.
Savor those moments, because on your deathbed, will you remember all the snaps you viewed, whether or not people liked you as Student Council President, or how much money you made that one year? Or will you remember all the things that you were grateful for, those you loved and those who loved you, and how interesting a time it all was?
Though we cannot know now, I urge you to lead a life that will culminate in the second experience. I urge you to be grateful, to give love freely, and to savor the time that we are given. I wish everyone luck in the years ahead, I thank those that helped me learn the value of gratuity, love, and time, and I thank the universe for everything that has happened to me. Here’s hoping the future is as great as the past; cheers.
Adrian Javier Rivera