This week, Shonda Rhimes spoke to the graduating class of Dartmouth and delivered one hell of a speech. Don’t dream, she said—DO. Quit hiding behind hashtags (which create awareness, yes, but that’s about it) and get down to actual, old-fashioned save-the-world business. We’re privileged—acknowledge it. Instead of naval-gazing, look at everyone around you, recognize the upper hand you have, and lend it. No more baby-bitches, 2014. We’ve got business to do.
And I live for shit like this. I live for being reminded by women and men I respect that the only way you’ll achieve anything is by working harder than you thought possible, and then, when you’re ready to pass out from exhaustion and sore-brain, work some more. Because guess what: we’re all freakishly lucky. Being able to work for something you want? That’s a goddamn privilege. Most people work to make sure their kids can eat, but we’re working because we want to achieve our dreams. And there’s nothing wrong with that—I live for that too. But the ability to do that makes us an elite few.
Now, I say this being fully aware that all of us have lived different lives with vastly different experiences. My friends tell me about the cottages they went to as kids, and I tell them about my friends and I sitting in buckets filled with water. (They were big buckets!) And it’s fine. And I know everything is relative, but this is one of those times we get to recognize that we’ve got clothes and food and phones and computers, and get to use those things to get shit done. We have the luxury of deciding what our careers are going to look like, as well as the luxury of being kicked into high gear by celebrities speaking at college convocations (Which is a gift for us all). Life absolutely sucks sometimes, but we’ve come this far—we’re strong, even if sometimes we’re afraid to admit it.
If you got up, got dressed, got ready, ate breakfast, and went to work: congratulations, you are tough as fuck. I’m not kidding: the world is a scary place, and to decide to face it on the daily deserves acknowledgement. But if you can get yourself out the door, you can probably do a lot more than that. You can probably be honest with yourself about what you want, who you want to be, and who you want to surround yourself with. You officially have the guts to say, “Yeah, I don’t want to do this thing” or “I’m not interested in that” and “Yes, I am absolutely going to take over the world.” You’re already too strong to navel-gaze. You’re also too smart: nothing good has ever come from navel-gazing, only the eventual acknowledgement of wasted time. (And the annoyance of everyone around you.) Just get going already.
That’s a luxury we think we have, but don’t: wasting time. Today I wasted it scrolling through Tumblr looking for nothing, and last night I wasted it watching YouTube clips I’ve seen a million times before. In small doses, time wasting is fine. It’s fun! It’s necessary. (Otherwise, you will simply want to lie down in the desert and wait for death.) But all the time? No. Just watch a convocation speech and decide to kick yourself into high gear if you must watch a thing. The opposite is beneath you—you’re a force to be reckoned with.
The older I get, the less patience I have with people who talk about things but don’t see them through. At this age (currently 28, hello how are you), I’m starting to see what happens when family gets old, or friends get sick, or people die, and I’m already starting to regret the time I spent trying to make my life look like somebody else’s when I could’ve been making it my own. I wanted to write forever, but I was in my mid-20s when I finally committed. It took me that long because I was scared, so I focused exclusively on the things that had so far prevented it from happening.
And that’s some gross, baby-bitch privilege right there. I was scared to be a writer? What is that?! Who’s going to stop me? Who’s going to stop you? You want to do a thing, do the damn thing. You want to embrace the privilege you’ve been given by actually using what’s around you to make something happen, be my guest. You want to actually act on that plan to travel or to write or to open a store or to start your own sketch troupe, do it. Already. Please. Then use that momentum to help the people around you who may also be stuck. Because sure, the word and the industry and the city is scary, but nothing is as bad as being that person too paralyzed too move; too lost in their own mental space and/or navel-gazing to jar themselves into action.
Time is precious, we are lucky. And yeah, sometimes we need Shonda Rhimes to remind us of the things we have and the luxuries we’ve been given, but the reason we adhere to her advice and words like it, is because we know they have a point. They’re tough as fuck, too—just like you are, I promise.