Good morning Ms Meg Fargher, teachers, staff, parents, guests, Old Oaks and pupils of Somerset College.
Thank you for your invitation and the honour to speak at Founders’ Day.
Today is a personal privilege for me, going down memory lane. The drive up to the manor house, amongst the vineyards and horses, and sitting in those chairs, as I did 10 years ago. I think back with fondness to my College days. These were some of the best times of my life!
- The fun, the walks down to the music block, the late night drama practices that ended with whatever food we could scavenge from the boarders!
- Way too much time spent in French classes trying to persuade Mr Baarzt to have coffee classes outside.
- Trying to catch up our maths homework at the back of class before Mr Esterhuyse would notice, although I am sure he always did.
- It is here that life-long friends were made, that we still have to this day.
- This school is this safe place where you, learn, love and make some of you best mistakes.
- This is where you come of age and eventually have an entire patch of land to yourself, your rightful passage into the adult world, the matric lawn.
- A place where you meet second families and great teachers, learn valuable lessons of life, experience heart breaks and have love stories to write.
- For those of you that are still here for a few years, the best advice I can give is – enjoy this moment, where you are sitting right now. Make sure to get involved, sign up to audition for a play, even if you are not sure if you can act. Start playing a musical instrument; sign up for a committee, meet someone you don’t know from another class.
- So what if it might not work out! Even if you are not chosen to play Romeo or Juliet? That’s okay. Take my word for it; 10 years from now the sting of that disappointment won’t compare to the feeling of regret for not having done enough with your time at the College.
Often, when out of the moment, one can reflect and see the true value added to your life. 10 years down the line, I have forgotten the periodic table and I definitely can’t find X any more, but I still treasure the memories and life lessons taught between these walls.
And today I would like to share 5 great lessons of life that have marked my passage of time from school to where I am today. The advice I would never forget.
- Firstly, from school it would definitely be the famous line from our time, spoken often by Mr. Wynne, “Be a problem solver, not a problem maker”. If you want to stand out from the crowd, this is the first step in getting there.
- My second valuable lesson; came from one of our tax lecturers at Stellenbosch University. It challenged the obsession we have about what other people think about us. She said: ‘Do not take offence at what people say or how people treat you, because the way people treat you is not a reflection of you but a reflection of themselves’ In her words “it’s their issue not yours”. Make sure to keep your slate clean with kindness. Everything beyond your actions and reactions is out of your control.
- My parents taught me many things, but what comes to mind is their motto in life. This was depicted on a huge bumper sticker my dad had pasted on my mom’s office printer, it was the Nike slogan JUST DO IT! If you want to get somewhere in life, the first step is to stop watching Suits, get off the couch, and get on with it! And most importantly, when you do get going, do it with integrity……there is no point in defeating the odds, achieving great heights, having books written about you, just to lose it because you didn’t get there the clean way.
- During 7 years of marriage I have learnt a great deal from my husband. But the greatest lesson he has taught me through his life is – don’t stress so much. He keeps reminding me to enjoy the moment, enjoy where I am in life and always stay young at heart. Sometimes it’s fine just to let go and WING IT…. although please be selective with this advice, this is not matric exams advice!
- Finally this last story is probably the most inspiring true event that has captivated me over the past year. It is the story of Tipolina who we met through family, when we moved to Namibia, and she shared her story with us. She was raised in a small township in Namibia, approximately an hour from Windhoek. A town plagued by poverty, illness and substance abuse. Where you grew up knowing what it felt like to be hungry at bedtime and not enough cloths to shelter you from the bitter cold winters. She vividly remembers her childhood. While her friends were outdoors playing in the Namibian sun, her mother would send her to her room to study until the day turned to night. And studying by sunlight to candle light. Besides the everyday struggles of her community, she also had to struggle for her education. She did not have access to glossy text books or newly painted classrooms. She would often sit in a class, waiting, with no teacher at the black board.
Tipolina refused to accept her situation as hopeless and came up with countless plans to defeat the odds and excel past the hurdles in her life. She would stand at the gates of more privileged schools, make friends with kids her age and borrow their text books to learn what she needed to know.
Some of these pupils also became her best friends. She taught herself math and at times when a teacher did not show up for class, she would even stand up and teach her fellow classmates.
Today she speaks 7 languages, is currently studying engineering at the Polytech of Namibia. She is one of the top 3 students in her class and was recently invited to visit Germany on an exchange program to present her thesis. And in her spare time, on a Sunday afternoon, she returns to her school in a township in Windhoek and teaches math to the grade 12 students.
I tried to think, what made Tipolina so different and I realized what Tipolina did to achieve success was as simple as defying her belief in herself. Her first step was not dependent on who she knew or who her dad was. It was not all the people who supported her or the borrowed text books. It was not the financial assistance she later obtained to follow her dream. It started with the belief that she could succeed! This, excluding all the other variables in her life this was the one truth that propelled her forward.
The only thing standing between who we are and who we aspire to be, is the limited view we have of ourselves. Do not fall into the stereotyped view of yourself. Don’t just follow the crowd. You have a world to discover, to conquer and improve. Challenge your belief in yourself.
Ten years from now you will wake up, you will be older and you will be wiser. You will have made some mistakes; you will have had amazing ups and many downs. Make sure that when you get there, that you are happy with the person you are and the person you became. This is your journey, you are in control and that is your challenge.
I planned to wear my College blazer today and would have, if it wasn’t so huge! I’m sure many of you can relate, my parents bought it 3 sizes too big because I was going to “grow into it”, needless to say I never did. But in one of the pockets I found my farewell speech and I would like to end with the same words as I did then. These words and especially the poem seem to change my life a little, every time I read it:
Never allow people to make you feel inferior, not clever enough, not special enough. There is one simple truth, we can be whatever we want to be, we decide, we strive, we succeed. The best we can do is to stay true to ourselves, like an Abraham Maslow said “a musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself – what a man can be he must be.”
And a final poem:
The game we play is let’s pretend and pretend we’re not pretending. We choose to forget who we are and then forget we’ve forgotten. In our attempt to cope with early situations we chose or were hypnotized into a passive state – to avoid punishment or the loss of love we choose to deny our response/ability pretending that things just happened or that we were being controlled, taken over.
We put ourselves down and have become used to this weakness this indecisiveness, but we are in reality free. A center of cosmic energy, your will is your power – don’t pretend you don’t have it…or you won’t.
For many of you, today almost marks the end of your time here, but with every ending there is also the promise of new and exciting beginnings. I can’t tell where your journey will end, but whatever you decide to do from here, make sure you make the best with what you were given.