Student Commencement Speech by Robyn Sklaren '00
Ladies of the Class of 2000. Ladies. I think, after all the craziness we have been dealing with this past week, it is time for a little fairy tale/bedtime story. But please, don't really fall asleep on me, okay?
Once upon a time, in a galaxy pretty much identical to this one, resting in between a liquor store and The Gap stood a gothic campus called Wellesley College. Wellesley College, not to be confused with Wesleyan University in Connecticut, was filled with around 2300 women, many of whom were happy, some who were not as happy, and others who were just plain unhappy. They all lived together in perfect cacophony. This Wellesley was the kind of place that believed it turned girls into women. It considered itself a safe haven for these chosen ones, these warrior maidens. A safe haven, overlooking of course the badly lit parking lots, occasional renegade flashers, and the fact that, once alight, the Tower Court complex would burn down in less than four minutes. One of the 2300 or so women, or perhaps some would say all 2300 of the women, was named Wendy. Wendy was one of those girls with a thirst for life, and occasionally a beer at Molly's Pub during Last Call. Sometimes she walked around campus in pajamas or sweats, sometimes she had pink hair or a nose ring, once and a while she would walk around at night with her sunglasses on, and rarely, very rarely, she would break out her pearls. Although, seriously, the Davis scholars are the only women with enough life experience to even attempt to wear pearls… But I digress.
Wendy studied economics, she studied comparative literature, she finished her language requirement so quickly that she ended up with an Russian minor, although the same cannot be said for her gym requirement, she even took a few film courses. Our Wendy is a quirky girl; she has no need to intellectually justify herself in any way. Once in a while she would make a pilgrimage on a cramped smelly bus on which she could not consume food to a campus in the heart of Cambridge full of self-righteous, smelly boys. But usually only in the first two months of her first-year, right?
After four years of trials, tribulations, and a few laughs, Wendy went up to the gate keeper of the college and asked to be let outside its hallowed halls for good. The gate keeper, a stoic being with a mercurial smile, asked Wendy one question, which would determine her fate: Why? And Wendy, who was, let me say, the cleverest of clever girls, gritted her teeth and smiled. Then she pushed the gate keeper aside, kicked the gate open and, as she walked away, replied to the gate keeper "Because."
Okay. Everyone, I want you all to take a deep breath with me. Inhale. Exhale. Now look over at each other. Don't be afraid to smile. We did it. We survived. We scratched, clawed, and for some, sailed our way through this place. Four years. Kinda scary, eh?
So I was sitting in the computer cluster in Tower Court, a place where I, and a couple other ladies I see sweating out there, spend way too much time. And I was thinking about what to write. Wondering what on earth I would say to you folks if I got the chance. If I was crazy enough. If I was brave enough. I know it may be hard for many of you to believe, but I really am not as fearless as I may seem.
If there is one thing I knew from the outset, it is that I did not want to give any grand advice. I am as clueless as the next person. I also did not want to give any "where do we go from here speech" because, honestly, I have no idea.
What I do know, is that, love this place or hate it, it is most definitely one of a kind. Sometimes I wonder if it is an experiment: put 2300 women in one place and see if they kill each other. We're all here, Right? Nobody's missing? Just checking.
I do not think that anyone out there has only praise for Wellesley. But at the same time I know that those of you who have a million bad things to say are not giving this place enough credit. There is a lot of good mixed in with that not-so-good. Come on, think about it. There have been times when that ubiquitous look of discontent has cracked into a smile.
Only at Wellesley. Maybe that should be our motto. Forget about 125 Years of Women on Top. It's been done. Because, when you think about it for a moment, there are some pretty cool things we can say about this place, and some pretty odd things that tend to happen. Only at Wellesley are there tales of an animal, a new species, that is half rabbit, half squirrel and hops. Only at Wellesley is there such a notorious form of transportation with a name that, well, it is a name you'll never forget. Only at Wellesley are Schneider fries and a diet coke considered a food group. And only at Wellesley would 605 women wearing red feather boas be considered conformists. The list goes on and on. I'd like to see a show of hands, don't be shy, your parents already know: How many of you have gone skinny dipping in Lake Waban over there? Have any of you gotten, um, sick, on the Truck during these last four years? How many of you have had your parties closed down or alcohol confiscated by Campus Po? Or shot icy stares towards men wandering around the dining halls on a Sunday morning? All these are quintessential Wellesley moments. Once the classes are over and we drag ourselves out of the LTC or the SCI-LI, we know how to party. I don't care what US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT says.
Some of you out there have some time before you start your training programs at Merrill, Goldman, or some other crazy financial institution, where you'll work more hours and make more money than many of us. Just don't forget to give stock tips to your fellow Wellesley sisters, okay? Some of you have no desire to leave school, and are putting yourself through two to five more years. Some of you doctor types out there, even more. I tip my hat to you, for you have far more stamina than I. Some of you will teach, others will do not-for-profit work and make the rest of us look like capitalist slackers. Me. I don't know what I am doing. But hey, I am not unemployed, I'm just resting. And no one can tell me otherwise. I'm simply gathering my strength…
As I mentioned before, I really do not believe myself qualified to give any advice because I don't know all that much. I'm on the same page as the rest of you. I'm just starting to figure things out. I've left the gates and am staring at the real world with wide eyes full of wonder. The real world -- somehow I have a feeling that it is nothing like Wellesley. And that is probably a good thing.
So, back to my little bedtime story. Some of you might be wondering what the heck I was talking about. Well, all fairy tales have morals and mine is no exception. So, you know what, do not listen to anyone else. Do not take what other people say as the gospel. No one says you have to be the leader, but you don't have to follow either. Do not let people trick you into justifying anything, explaining why you choose to do certain things or say certain things or be a certain way. Just do what you want. Within reason, of course. You do not have any rationalize anything to anyone, unless you want to. No one has the right to ask you why. Not even Wellesley. If you want to give up that consulting job in order to birth sheep in the Shetland Islands, go for it. If being a starving artist in Greenwich Village doesn't cut it anymore and you want to go work for that new start-up in Framingham that offers a great stock option package, more power to you. As long as you feel like you have some vague idea of what you are doing, go for it. Even if you don't, just see where your journey takes you. Trust your instincts. Take a flying leap. Find your own way. And if someone doesn't like it. Tough. They can go sit somewhere else.