Abigael Bongaarts '15 Speech - Commencement 2015

May 17, 2015


A few weeks ago I was sitting in a senior seminar taught by Prof. Lanci and the topic of discussion that day was life after Stonehill; we were supposed to reflect on where we had been and where we were going. In order to get us started, Prof. Lanci asked if any of us could come up with a metaphor for life after graduation. We all sat there for a few moments in awkward silence, because what 22 year old has come up with a metaphor for life, but finally I raised my hand and said I had a way of thinking about it. I envisioned life after Stonehill as standing in front of a very large forest holding a chainsaw.

Now, before I am accused of advocating for violence or environmental destruction, let me explain. This metaphor came to me back in October after some well meaning relative asked me every senior’s favorite question for what felt like the 382nd time, what were my plans for after graduation? What path would I be taking? For most of this year I didn’t have a very good answer to this question, but I started to think that part of the beauty of our education here is that it has not just focused on determining what we should be, but rather has challenged us to think about how we should live; I came to see that life after Stonehill was less about choosing a path and more about taking what I’ve learned here and using that to carve my way forward. Because who needs a path when you have a chainsaw? 

Whether you are employed, heading to grad school, or are still figuring everything out, whether you are from Brockton, California, or India, studied biochemistry or philosophy, or were a part or fulltime student, what we all have in common is that our time at Stonehill will profoundly shape how we decide to make our way through the forest.

So I ask you to take a moment now, and think about what lies in the forest and how your experiences here will help you guide your way forward. Maybe you went on a hope trip or participated in campus ministry programs and developed a passion for social justice. Perhaps you studied abroad or took a learning community that changed your perspective. Maybe you played on a sports team, created or joined a club, or had a mentor who impacted your time here.  However, it’s not just these larger more defined experiences that will influence how we decide to go forward but also accumulation many little, seemingly insignificant ones. Reading Socrates in your freshman philosophy class, helping people shovel their car out of lot 17…5 times, struggling through your capstone, taking a class that challenged your beliefs, goofing around at orientation, getting a C, buying a cupcake form patty at the bakery, sitting on the common room floor at 3 am eating chessman’s with your friends, as author Cheryl Strayed would say, moments such as these have all been a part of our becoming; they will all add up to mean something.  

With our chainsaws in hand we have the choice of hacking our way through the forest or moving forward intentionally carving out our lives. I hope we are able to use what we’ve learned at Stonehill to create our own paths, with passion and patience, taking into account what we value, who we love and how we want to live.

And finally, before we head off into the forest, I would like to thank the people who have influenced us along the way. Thank you to our professors for challenging us to think deeply, to question, and for mentoring us during our 4 years here. Thank you to all the administrators and employees of the college who work tirelessly to create such a positive community. And last but not least, thank you to our parents, siblings, guardians, friends and other family members who have provided so much love and support over the years. We will carry your wisdom and guidance with us as we go forward and use it to carve a path that reflects what you’ve taught us.

Class of 2015, I’m grateful to have spent the past 4 years with you and I wish you the best of luck going forward. But now, it’s time to rev up our chainsaws because congratulations, we did it!!