This year marks the 20th anniversary of my graduation from NYU (Magna cum laude, thank you very much). It was one of the worst weather days on record in New York City’s Washington Square Park. The Arch seemed to look like a huge concrete frown. There was marble sized hail hitting us as we sat through torrential downpours. Our pretty dresses were saturated under our drenched purple graduation gowns. Swarms of us piled into the Gap after it was over to buy warm sweatpants and dry socks. Instead of a sea of caps with inspirational stickers, we had an expansive field of umbrellas.
We had not one, but two notable speakers, Steven Spielberg, and Robert DeNiro. We sat through a Nobel Peace Prize winner in biochemistry, puddles forming at our feet, all anxious to hear the inspirational words we’d soak up from these members of the Hollywood elite.
I can transcribe both speeches and not because I was a journalism major with a mind like a trap. Steven Spielberg came out and said, “I have only one thing to say to you graduates: Take the future by storm!” That’s it. While I appreciated the pun, I longed for more than 15 words. Robert DeNiro was even worse. “As they say in the theater,” Mr. DeNiro cried, “break a leg!” He said so quickly it might as well have been magic words. Three words, which I think hardly qualify as a speech.
Today I saw this clip of a real speech Steven Spielberg made a few years ago. This one is a bit longer:
“. . . the dream is something you never knew was going to come into your life. Dreams always come from behind you, not right between your eyes. It sneaks up on you. But when you have a dream, it doesn’t often come at you screaming in your face, “This is who you are, this is what you must be for the rest of your life.” Sometimes a dream almost whispers. And I’ve always said to my kids, the hardest thing to listen to—your instincts, your human personal intuition—always whispers; it never shouts. Very hard to hear. So you have to, every day of your lives, be ready to hear what whispers in your ear; it very rarely shouts. And if you can listen to the whisper, and if it tickles your heart, and it’s something you think you want to do for the rest of your life, then that is going to be what you do for the rest of your life, and we will benefit from everything you do.
THIS IS THE SPEECH I DESERVED 20 YEARS AGO! THIS speech could have changed the trajectory of my life. Maybe I wasn’t ready to hear it then. Maybe it wouldn’t have resonated as loudly as it does, now that I’ve actually lived.
I’m 41 rather than 21. I’ve been waiting to have this roaring dream inspire me for two decades. I thought I was in the “I Don’t have a Dream” Club – but instead it turns out I may be in the “I Haven’t Listened to My Dream” Club. I never valued my whisper; I didn’t give it power. Meanwhile, my whisper has been screaming at me all along. The pulsing in my chest, the fire in my arms and legs and heart which burns when I’m tapping the keyboard rapturously, rapidly filling a page with letters. Nothing else provides me with such fulfillment. How loud does a banging have to be? Apparently my life was drowning out the important sounds, the hushing one in my ear.
Uh oh … I hear another whisper … photography? What?!