Sarah Bolasevich ’11 Speech
September 01, 2010
President Cregan, Faculty, Alumni, members of the platform party, and fellow students: is my pleasure to have the opportunity to address you and to introduce the 2010 convocation speaker, Professor Mary Joan Leith.
I'd like to welcome back the Seniors, to our last year of college and congratulations on your accomplishments thus far; you've explored and chosen your fields of study, some spent time studying or interning abroad, and others have served the communities in our backyard and around the world. It's been wonderful for me to share in our college experience.
But today I must direct most of my attention to welcome the freshmen. Some of you have been counting down to this day, others have already begun counting to the end; but please don't count too fast. I stand before you not in envy of your new beginning, but in sheer delight and excitement for you.
Delight that you are about to set foot in a school and a community that can coat you in courage, spark your intellect, and allow you to discover whatever piece of self or object of quest you may be looking for.
Actually, I can stand before you without envy because I now feel prepared to take the world into my arms. And I feel confident that this Stonehill community will prepare you and cultivate you as it has done to me.
Its a rarity for me to feel satisfied with just any institutionalized structure, But I sincerely place hope and trust in Stonehill to be more than a mere institution of collegiate robotics and a staircase of requirements. Because I have found it to be a place of growth and discovery.
Looking at myself, I can say I've really grown up here. But it wasn't always like this, and I wasn't always prepared, confident, or nearly as curious. When I came to Stonehill I had an entirely different perspective on life. If someone asked me to speak in front of a crowd, I would have either passed out or transferred immediately, to blend back in. I wanted only to find a career to make money, and thought that to be the single quality of success.
I entered as a Computer Science major but quickly realized that I did not enjoy it as I had in highschool; and I hit a wall. As soon as the word UNDECLARED appeared on my degree audit, I took this time to accept that the world was definitely ending and I was without purpose. Then when I began taking other courses, if I enjoyed them, they became my major. English, graphic design, and multidisciplinary(s). I was terrified of not knowing.
Things only began to change when my GR Professor, Mary Joan Leith, directed me to the office of Neal Price. One of the most wonderful and gentle people I have ever met, and may he rest in the peace that he constantly brought upon others. He made me realize --a ton-- about myself. Just by listening and encouraging me to speak my mind, something simple but easily forgotten about.
But Neal, He made it clear that it was okay to be enthusiastic and not to know. He made me realize I loved English because I wanted to write about the complexities of human emotion. That I loved Graphic Design because I wished to know what is it about aesthetic appeal that can send a message to another. But he made me realize more than anything, that I wished to know truth, to understand people, to investigate belief and how this influences action, and peoples' realities. Then he helped me discover myself, as a Religious Studies major. He taught me to trust in myself, in him, and in others; that things truly work out if you let yourself be guided.
From there, things took off; My new advisor, Mary Joan Leith, helped me see, or at least made me think, that I could do anything.
I began to have several ideas and I will give you this piece of advice. You should be very careful how loosely you let your imagination unfold, because here if you have an idea, you can count on its sprouting through the support of our community. Literally -everything-- I have once thought, has now come true.
I one day wanted to start a club, cultivating dialogue about traditions ranging from Buddhist meditation to ancient Christianity. Now we call ourselves the Religious Studies Society and visit temples, zen centers, and engage in these comparative conversations.
I inquired that I wanted to deeply understand and experience the perspectives of God that were written on classroom walls and in texts, and I was lead to Service. 2 and a half years later that has turned into about 450 hours of wonderful and imperative discovery. Where I was taught in and out of the classroom to push myself to grow, to take risks, and to ask questions. Learning became about putting on lens after lens to see the world in a multitude of ways, to understand the perspectives of all people, that they were just as valid as mine. To understand that as I once was the center of my reality, others were the centers of theirs, desiring the same things that I wanted without the same opportunities. That is when people, became my books.
Then one day I thought it might be a good idea to use my awkward obsession with endurance sports to raise money for certain causes; I was encouraged into the Triathlon world and now I can't stop doing them. Seriously, be careful what you say around these people.
I wanted to engage in a new tradition, and I ended up in Nepal last semester, living with a Tibetan family and doing a study project under the direction of a 98 year old Buddhist master. The experience was invaluable, and I'll never forget all of the things I learned. But one sticks out; they were always talking about death. One of my close Monk friends said It almost everyday "One thing is certain, we all die, and it is uncertain when..." It was his way of telling me to call to mind the important things. It made me evaluate my important things; What did I stand for, and was I working towards it everyday, knowing that any could be the last. It made me think that when someone gets it, truly understands living, you constantly want to be around them. They have a calm and positive glow, a gratitude, and a real enjoyment for every single day.
So whatever academic thrills I was entangled with in the classroom, or whatever measurements of inexhaustible compassion I was trying to comprehend outside, I have learned one very important lesson here. That of Enjoyment. The Buddhist teachers of Nepal, the nuns and priests I've grown close with, and my professors were all pointing me to the same direction. Find something that you enjoy, that makes you feel alive. Not just on the weekends, and not only when 5 o'clock roles around, but for every day, and every moment. How many people can wake up each day knowing they are going to do something they love? We have the chance to do this. And I'm not romanticizing it, because I am standing before you now --telling you the story of my utter enjoyment.
And that is what I hope college is for you; a true education. That you stop counting the stairs and milestones and embrace the journey, the whole journey including the hard parts.
Maybe I'm a little more intense than the average person, but despite the level of one's enthusiasm, I think everyone wants to find something they can truly enjoy. Not all of you will go abroad, or backpack parts of the Himalayas, but I do hope you go somewhere, wherever you want to go, to be the best that you can be.
Here I have definitely been taught to be myself, and to love myself. And to keep in mind that I'm constantly changing: just last year Dean Grant helped me declare a double multidisciplinary major because I loved to study the brain and psychology, why things occur; so now I'm exploring the neurological correlates to religious experience. I know it's bizarre, but it is me --and I can not deny that.
And I have the same hope for you, to discover what it is you truly want to get out of life, out of your education. To find joy in your talents, and then use them to help others find theirs. To challenge yourself, to examine your actions and your thoughts, so that you don't run the risk of losing yourself to the crowd. Start now, by finding the people who will accompany you on the journey-people who will help you flourish.
And so to my wonderful adviser who has helped me grow into the person I am today; I am very pleased to have a public opportunity to express my gratitude. I believe that not enough people say thanks and I may not get a chance like this again, so I will say it now. Professor, I thank you, for allowing me to first become maybe too comfortable with myself, and then to step out of that comfort zone, probably never to return again. For all the times I came in tears or in anxiety to your office and you helped me put the pieces back together. Thank you for shocking me with knowledge, for teaching me courage to accept it, and for showing me ways to never ending discovery. When people ask me why Stonehill, I've got hundreds of reasons, but you're definitely at the top of my list. And if you have not already met, it is my privilege to introduce to you Prof. Mary Joan Leith, winner of the 2009 Louise Hegarty Teaching Award and this year's Convocation speaker.
-Sarah Bolasevich '11
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