Ryan Correy's Speech as Valedictorian
Turning Passion into Purpose
What an honour!
This will be one of the most memorable days of your life. And should you not appreciate my pop culture references, this could also be one of the most humiliating for me.
So here we go…
Using my experiences as a jump off point, I’m now going to ask for your help in deciding how I relay my message. Let’s try and find some common ground, shall we?
As you may or may not know, Lance Armstrong is a big inspiration for the path that I have chosen. Before the LiveStrong campaign took hold, Lance was famous for championing the Latin phrase, 'Carpe Diem.' By a show of hands, how many of you know the English translation?
OK, let’s try a different route, the same objective.
Who here is on or has heard of Facebook?
Facebook is an online community that allows people like me to express their ambitions to the world. For others, it is a way to showcase what fun can be had with a 12-pack, a magic marker and a digital camera. In either case, my objective is to help give your Facebook profile a facelift. Ultimately, this is a message about turning passion into purpose – or to 'seize the day,' as Carpe Diem would have it.
That said, I want you to know that I do not question your purpose. My goal here, rather, is to recap some important points that you may have utilized over the last couple of years, and to strengthen your resolve for whatever destiny may lie ahead.
So let’s begin.
Point #1 : Understand that life is an evolving process. Our purpose is too.
Perfect example. I was at a formal get together not too long ago when, from out of nowhere, I feel this tug at my leg. I look down to see a three-year-old girl now begin to hug me. For a moment, we both just look at each other, her with her baby blues and me with my look of awe. And then, like out of one of George Clooney’s worst nightmares, she says the scariest thing that I have ever heard. She looks at me and mistakenly proclaims, with a big happy smile, "D-a-d-d-y!"
At that moment I start to have these visions of the future...children, marriage, taxes, my Facebook status changing from 'Single' to 'It’s Complicated' … my heart is racing, my breathing rapid, my face flushed … that’s when I realized, I’m having a quarter life crisis!
This is also when I realized that I will not always be so focused on riding my bike for a living. I embrace this fact, for our purpose does not simply change, it matures. And this is a comforting thought.
Point #2 : As we evolve, our passion defines the challenges that we take on.
The lengths that I have travelled, I have experienced things that most could only imagine. Some of these experiences, such as cycling to the tops of the Andes Mountains, are nothing short of amazing. Other experiences, such as seeing someone murdered along the roads of Central America, these I wish upon no one.
I am not alone in these challenges. For example, somewhere in this crowd is a single mom, working through school for a better life, for her and her family. A row ahead of her, there sits a young man who has worked two jobs to see this goal through. One further, a young woman who moved across the country, in search of a dream that only she believed.
There are many more examples, each as inspiring. And given the chance, let me tell you, I would have a tough time walking in your shoes.
Why is this?
My friend and I were sitting in a bar not too long ago. She was drinking a beer and I was drinking a glass of chocolate milk. Anyway, We got into a heated debate over whether or not a 165-pound cyclist, me, who shaves his legs could survive working on the oilrigs up north.
Initially, the debate went the way of me trying to educate my friend on the advantages of aerodynamic skin. The entire time I was talking, she looked at me with a smirk on her face. Her expression spoke volumes. And ultimately, she was right. I wouldn’t last on the rigs. Not for the reason that she believed, however.
I am a firm believer that any challenge can be overcome, should the passion to do so be there. And if I had a passion for that kind of work, then yeah, I probably would have a fighting chance. But passion alone will only get us so far. This is why many of us arrived here at the college. We had a need to turn our passion into a purpose.
That point leads us to the ultimate question…
Point #3 : What is the purpose of life?
Whether you were here for four years, two years or just today, I would like to believe that we have all found some purpose in our time here. For me, that direction arrived close to two years ago now, during a Directed Field Study for my Ecotourism program. This was not your typical field study, however.
After cycling for 131 days along the Pan American Highway, I found myself standing at the edge of the world. This was Argentina. I had begun my journey in Alaska. A couple hundred kilometres in the distance was Antarctica … the icebergs, the penguins … it was all right there. I would say that it is right there, but that would just be lying. Some might call this is an inconvenient truth.
Anyway, reflecting on what I had done, in the one hand I had accumulated a massive amount of debt, and had bribed my way through two thirds of the Americas. In the other hand, I had created a following to a movement that was quickly becoming larger than me. Truth be told, it all seemed rather chaotic.
In that moment of retrospection, I paused and looked towards the sky. It was then that I noticed an eagle flying high above. As I turned to watch it fly away, I noticed something rather peculiar. On the seawall behind me, written in big bold letters, a banner read: 'The end of the world. The beginning of everything.'
It was then that the great purpose was unveiled. And what I realized … I will continue on until I can no longer. And at that end, the world will continue on, much the same as it always has. Indirectly to this end, I realized that life as a whole has no purpose.
Point #4 : Why am I still talking? There is no purpose to life.
Understand. It is impossible to provide structure to a sentence that never ends. This kind of foresight is beyond our capacity. Therefore, our purpose must be found in something that is finite. That is, our lives. And so I embrace the fact that, there may not be a purpose to life as a whole, but there is a purpose to my life. My purpose, that movement that I spoke of before, is the pursuit of a dream. And not a dream that can be defined in black and white terms, but rather, a feeling inside that speaks to me with a quiet confidence and says, 'One day you will change the world.'
Point #5 : A dream is the ultimate combination of passion and purpose.
A dream defines your journey, and yours alone. But a dream will reaming but fragment of your imagination, should you not commit to making it a reality.
Now is the time to commit.
Sticking with what we can relate to, sometime in the next couple of days, I want you to take a moment to visit your Facebook page. After you have added me as a friend, of course, go to your profile and press the edit button. Before you make any drastic changes to your future plans, sit back, close your eyes, and listen to your heart. If you should feel your pulse quicken, this is a sign. Deep inside a purpose thrives.
Try retyping your profile now.
Who are you? What is your dream? These are the sorts of questions that define a purpose driven life…
Call this a written contract between you and your self. And to make sure that you stick to your guns, you have me, your new friend … always watching, always judging.
Point #6 : The dream never ends.
Yes, this chapter of our lives is nearly complete. But we smile, for the dream has only just begun.
In the movie Braveheart, this is the scene where William Wallace stands in front of his countrymen, much like the scene here today, to rally them against a daunting foe – our foe, let’s call it, that person, place, or thing that prevents our dream from becoming a reality.
Too these challenges, we scream our battle cry. And as it just so happens, I have one prepared just for this occasion.
Would you like to hear it? Here it goes…
For once we dreamt in the dark and night. But on this day, we dream with eyes wide open, to make the world right. And the challenges along the way, come as they may. For I have met my end once before, and to that end I say: 'I am an MRC graduate. I will find a way!'
Note: For more information on this ceremony, visit the 2007 main page.