Commencement Speech – 2022

The following are the concluding remarks for the Class of 2022 Commencement on June 3, 2022

I have long been fascinated by the concept of time. What is it? How do we perceive it? Why does it appear to slow down at times, and stand still at others?  Does time really fly when you are having fun?

To explore time more deeply, and because you can never go wrong with Albert Einstein, I reached for his 1905 publication on the ‘Theory of Special Relativity.’ In it, Einstein established that time was, indeed, relative. The rate at which time passes depends on your frame of reference. While it can be measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years, Einstein also believed that time was just an illusion, that it is our way of making sense of growing older.

In that, time can be measured in experiences, adventures, and shared histories. It can also be measured in milestones.  Perhaps we could look at time a little differently. Imagine time as a collection of moments, large and small. And what if we could collect them. Put them in a mason jar. And look at them. There would be big moments that would stand out. Imagine these as large marbles in your jar, the importance of the occasion marked by elaborate design and distinction. They, by design, stand out and their size shows prominence, but they alone do not fill up the jar.

Now imagine pouring sand into the jar and moving it gently. The sand will work its way down to the bottom, filling in the gaps. The sand represents the little moments that happen each day, the moments that make you smile, the ones that make you cry, and the ordinary ones you don’t think twice about. These memories, though small in stature, belong in your mason jar. When looked at from afar, the sand appears to be amorphous and undifferentiated, but with a closer look, you see that each individual grain of sand has its own unique shape. Some of these will get lost in your memory, blending with other memories, but others will continue to stand out in your mind.

I was reminded of this just a few weeks ago at the 11th and 12th grade Prom. While you were creating your own memories, I found myself texting with a good friend from high school on the occasion of our 25th reunion. We had not spoken in a few years, but we found ourselves reliving some of these grains of sand that we deposited in our jars years before. Despite the physical time that had passed, we dove back into those memories as if they had occurred yesterday.

The following quote’s author is unknown, but the meaning resonates so deeply that I wanted to share it with you today: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”.

Class of 2022, today’s a big moment kind of day. It’s one of those marbles that will live on in your jar. Yet, when you think back on your time at Brimmer, it is going to be the individual moments that stand out to you. Something that happened in the lounge, on a bus to a game, or backstage at a rehearsal. It’s important to not lose track of the little moments and to appreciate them along the way. To store them, so they can be taken out and cherished when you see or talk to each other again.

Marbles, large and small, are made of grains of sand, melted together and reformed. They are the physical representation that it takes countless small moments to make the big ones. Today is your last day here, together, as the class of 2022. It would be easy to get swept away with the big moments. Instead, let’s take a moment to take time to breathe it in.

Now, I want you to stand up and look around the tent. Start by looking at each other, and create a lasting image of your classmates in your mind. Now turn and look at your family and friends all gathered here today to celebrate you. Take a mental picture of this moment and store it in your jar, allow your breath to be taken away in the beauty of this picture in time.

As we come to the final moments of today the sun is setting on your time at Brimmer. It’s important to remember that while the sunset represents an ending, it also makes way for a new beginning. The sun is heading towards the horizon and you are closing the chapter on this stage of your life, but tomorrow you will start a new chapter as alumni with new opportunities and new memories.

My final wish for you is that you don’t get swept away in the momentum of life. That you remember to pause, allow yourself to lose your breath, and store away your little moments so you can pull them out from time to time to enjoy them with each other when the time is right.

Author: jneudel

father, food allergy advocate, soccer enthusiast, educational innovator helping to maximize collaborative learning in schools. Upper School Head at Brimmer and May School

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