I was the valedictorian for my high school class. That meant that I had to give a speech in front of all of them, all of their families, the teachers and faculty, and anyone else who happened to wander in that day. Which, granted, only meant about 200 people since I went to a small school. But I always was the shy kid. And public speaking still makes me want to throw up a little bit.
I don't remember what I said in the speech, but I know what I'd say now, if I had the chance to do it again. It'd be a short speech, because I'd really only need four words of advice that could span the rest of the lives of all the people who were sitting before me.
Be comfortable with discomfort.
If there were ever four words you needed to get through the entirety of your life, it'd be these.
Unfortunately, they don't make sense. It's like telling someone to "expect the unexpected." It just can't happen. By acting the command on the object of the command, the object changes. Something you become comfortable with is no longer discomfort. Something you expect is no longer unexpected.
And so it goes forever.
I still think we need to try. In the few years I've lived, one thing has become clear.
We're going to be faced with things that make us uncomfortable almost every day.
You'll have to interview for a job. They won't call back when they say they will. You won't know if you should contact them, and if you do, does that show eagerness or desperation?
You'll meet a woman. She won't text back when you expect she will. Maybe it will go on for some time. Maybe indefinitely. Was it you or was it her?
They're going to come up in a thousand ways and they're going to hit us from every side. I'd even posit that the uncomfortable situations we confront are customized just for us. I won't have to face something that makes someone else feel out of place. Just the ones for me.
We have to make sure they don't kill us.
Now, perhaps that's being a bit dramatic. I won't discredit you if you think so. But I know that, for me at least, if I don't take the offensive, it will wear me down. It will beat me if I don't make myself beat it.
Maybe it's the same for you.
So, I guess my valedictorian speech would've been a few more than four words, if I had to give it again. And thank God that I don't.