"Go forth and make your mistakes" - Words from a Graduate

June 4, 2013

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Hamidah Mahmud was the student selected to speak at Granada Hills Charter High School's graduation last week. She graduated with 4.61 GPA and was a member of Granada's Academic Decathlon team, which took nationals this year. These were the words she shared:


Good evening teachers, counselors, administrators, family, and fellow classmates. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak on the behalf of the class of 2013. I realize that this is the last time we will be sitting together as a united whole, so I would like to give you one last gift: the gift of inspiration. As we part ways after today, I would like you all to remember one thing.

*Mistakes happen. *

People assume that I don't make mistakes. That I've never made the wrong choice or have never felt overwhelmed or failed an exam. But the truth is I have.

Mistakes are common. Some of us have made more than our fair share. I know that as teenagers we think we're perfect, but as our parents will happily attest, we are not. And even tonight, our counselors and administrators will make some mistakes with just pronouncing our names.

Even in our lives as high school students, a missed question on a math exam, a bad choice to skip studying in favor of a party or a Netflix marathon... these are not life changing mistakes.

In fact, of all the possible mistakes we could make in our lifetimes, very few would be considered life changing. One of those life-changing mistakes would be the fear of trying new things because we believe that every decision we make will have a permanent impact on our lives.

As we move forward from this moment right here, into a future of the unknown, it's only natural to be afraid. There are so many unanswered questions, such as "What are our majors going to be? What are we going to do with our lives? Do we know how to do laundry?" And then there are the deeper questions we ask ourselves, "Who am I?"

I don't know what my major is or what I'm going to do with my life, and I definitely don't know how to do laundry, but if there's one thing I do know, it's who I am.

The person who stands before you tonight was a coward. I was afraid of change. I was afraid of taking risks. I was afraid of making mistakes. Because of this mentality I had, I was closing myself off to the hundreds of opportunities that were staring me right in the face.

When I was first asked to try out for Academic Decathlon, I immediately responded with "No." I was terrified. Terrified of not being good enough, not being able to make the team, terrified of making a mistake. But with further encouragement from my brother, I hesitantly tried out. And after six long months, I found out that I did not make the team. Was I heartbroken? Yes. Did I cry my eyes out? Yes. Was trying out a mistake? No. The next day, I walked into class as an alternate and I sat down next to my partner and said, "Let's study some art. We have a competition to win."

And that's when I realized that just because things don't go the way we've planned, doesn't mean they're mistakes. Just because we've been traveling down the wrong road, doesn't mean we can't turn back if we so choose. We may even discover that the road we were taking wasn't so wrong after all, and that we ended up just where we were supposed to be.

As Tryon Edwards once said, "Some of the best lessons we ever learn we learn from our mistakes and failures. The error of the past is the wisdom of the future."

If we make a mistake today, it means that we won't make the same one tomorrow. We can learn from what we've done wrong in the past to make the right choices about our futures.

As I stand before you tonight, I am still a coward. I'm still afraid of spiders, the dark, and especially thunder. But one of the things I'm not afraid of is making mistakes. Go ahead and walk down the wrong path once in a while. Find your way, and get back on the right one.

So go forth Granada and make your mistakes. From them, you'll find your right paths. Thank you.

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