At the end of every semester I write a "Last Lecture", which is more or less words of advice that I think the students need to hear, words I wish I had heard when I was in college (or even now). This is the third semester I have done this, and each year is better than the last. I find new truths that I didn't even know I knew until writing them down. Now I realized when I came on here that I never posted the last lecture I gave for the Winter Semester I taught. I'll find it and put it on here in the following week. For now, I'll post the last lecture I wrote for this year; it was the hardest piece to read in class since it was the last lecture I would give at BYUI. But more on that later. Here you go:
We are not perfect. None of us are. We will never be perfect while piloting these meat sacks around this rotating orb of inconspicuous existence, spirit bodies having a mortal experience, waiting until we return home.
Perfection: that word implying flawless exceptionality unreachable by even the saintliest, the richest, the most beautiful, the strongest, the fastest, the smartest; that word, denoting completed wholeness, no need for improvement or growth or continuation. Perfection is the antithesis of being. Mortal perfection is what we should aspire to overcome, to grow beyond, or around, or outside of; because it is by mortal perfection that we lose ourselves, that we become absorbed in the ‘things’ of living: those objects that distract from truth and light and happiness; those ‘things’ that prognosticate hollow realities devoid of sustenance.
Don’t be perfect. Perfect is not for this life.
Be loving. Love with your whole soul, with every molecule bonded throughout your bodies; love until your bones crack and your skin tingles and you can’t breathe. Give that love freely. You cannot force love, nor can you take it. Love is the embodiment of time devoted to another, given without restraint by the giver to the recipient without expectation of reciprocation. It is the purest form of honesty and truth that one mortal can give to another, that one eternal being can give to another. It is the only gift we can give to God that He does not already possess. It is the only gift we can give each other that we cannot attain independently. Give love and accept love, be loving no matter what.
Be passionate. Stop living for the system, for ‘the man’, for the voice in your head that sounds like your mom or dad telling how to feel and what to think and who to be and what to eat; stop living for other people and their manufactured ideals perpetuated simply because that’s what’s been done since the dawning of mankind. Start living for yourself. Start making choices. Any choices. Choose which shoes to wear: not because a commercial or a friend or an ad online or a price tag, but because they are comfortable and help make your posture better. Choose what career you want to have, not because of the money you can make or the possible prestige associated or the people you will impress or the bullies and naysayers you can prove wrong, but choose a career because you are passionate about the work being done; because you love the environment and the people. Because you found a love in doing. Choose to be better than what you think you deserve. Be better than just the you that has been given to you. Choose to be passionate about you and becoming more you than anyone else could possibly hope to understand.
There is no one else in this world who is youer than you. You are the youest there is. Sounds like Dr. Suess, and I’m pretty sure it is, but still, it’s true. The scariest part, is that you can lose you. You can lose every single little detail that makes you you. And often no one takes it, we just give it away because we aren’t using it. We lose sight of who we are and what we want and what makes us happy, and we walk down the street tossing out little pieces of ourselves like confetti. And soon, you, the you that once was you, will no longer be you, but will be some other. And that other won’t recognize you, and it will start to change how you look, what you think, what you eat, what music you like, what words you say. That other will take your collection of obscure Mexican geckos and sell them to an aquarium for creepy men to look at, all the while you won’t even realize that all your favorite clothes are gone and you find yourself eating wedge salads and talking about the price of butternut squash at the farmer’s market. It is so easy to lose you when you aren’t paying attention.
Hold on to you. Keep you close. Get to know you. Develop you. Be passionate, and you will become more you. Never stop becoming more you.
And share that you with others. Whether in class, at church, at home, with a stranger at the Taco Bell after curfew; share yourself with others, give of yourself. Give of your passion for being. Give of that love.
Really, it all comes down to giving. To love and be loved. To be passionate. To be you. You must give. Give time. Give love. Give of yourself. Give to yourself. Give.
We are not perfect, and I hope we never will be, because I don’t want to stop growing and learning and becoming more me than I am now. It will be hard. I can guarantee it will be impossible. But the thing about impossible, is that nothing is impossible so long as we don’t know it is impossible. Some days you will want to give up. I almost did. But don’t. If you find yourself losing hope, thinking that you is no longer who you want, or that the omnipresent struggles of being weigh too much, never give up. Never surrender. Keep being imperfect. Keep making mistakes. Keep moving until you see yourself moving forward, moving upward, and you will start to become you again. The edge is scary, and easy to find, and there are many willing to lead to the edge and watch you fall into the down. Do not go there. Do not follow them. You are you, and you are more than just a meat sack, whether you know it or not.
You are loved. By many. By God. By your family. By your friends. By your ward family. By that stranger you held the door open for last week who was on crutches, or the person sitting alone who you smiled at in the Crossroads. But if you don’t feel love from any of them, know that I love you. You are part of me. You are part of my family. These last months have given me hope when I saw nothing but the darkness in the down while standing on the edge. I love all of you, not as students, but as friends. Keep being you. Keep giving. Keep loving.