Iman Abdulwassi Abubaker

Baccalaureatte 2014

Iman Abdulwassi  Abubaker, Student

Moment of Impact

The moment of impact, the moment of impact proves potential for change. Has ripples effects far beyond what we can predict, sending some particles crashing together,making them close than before while sending others spinning off into great ventures. Landing them where you've never thought you've found them. That's the thing about moments like these. You can't, no matter how hard you try, control how it's gonna affect you. You just got to let the colliding part go where they may and wait for the next collision. I wish I could tell you this was a quote by a famous philosopher or an advice given to me by an old wise man I met while backpacking across Europe. It is rather the words spoken by none other than the gorgeous Channing Tatum in the romantic comedy movie, "The Vow." Mom, Dad please do not be disappointed by where I find my inspirations. Moments of Impact- those words kept ringing in my head pushing all my brain cells to sort through my 22 years of existence and single out times that drastically changed the course of my life. What are my moments of impact? What are your moments of impact?

President Pasquerella, esteemed professors, guests, family, friends and the beautiful class of 2014, welcome. Welcome to May 18th, 2014-our moment of impact. It took only four years of blood, sweat, tears and a lot of Ramen noodles to get us here. Like many of you, coming to Mount Holyoke was my very first time away from home. When I left Ethiopia, I knew very little of what was awaiting me once I arrived here. I had never seen the campus, had no idea where or what I would eat or who my new friends would be. Regardless of all the circumstances- we adapted. We learned our way around this charming campus. In the snowy winter nights or the colorful fall days. We discovered what days were best to eat at Wilder or what time to go to brunch as to avoid the long line for crepes at Abbey-Buck. We made friends. We built a family. We developed our identities and our voices. We learned which professors we loved and forcefully made our way into their lives. We are all guilty of sending them an email with a desperate plea for an extension at 4 am in the morning (we sincerely apologize). We learned, or for many of us never learned, that running for the PVTA is no fun especially in heels and negative degree weather. We chose our interests and uncovered many layers of our passion. We are no longer the same young girls that walked through those gates. We are now young women.

Whether your time at Mount Holyoke was a transformational experience or not, you are not the same person you were four years ago. It was not an easy journey at all. One of the hardest parts for me was homesickness. Of course there is the occasional hunger pains when I missed my mom's home cooked meal when dining hall food would just not do. I missed being driven to school by my dad when I had to think about trekking all the way to skinner green from Ham hall. In reality, it may only take 10 minutes but not when it's a rainy day and I am comfortably wrapped around the warm body of procrastination. I missed the sunny warm Ethiopian weather on cold icy breezy days when I could not smile because my teeth would get too cold. I missed the frequent black outs where my family and I would sit in the living room eating corn off the cob with a candle as our only source of light. But most of all, most of all I would want to be home when I was sick. Sick with a flu or a stomach ache or even a minor migraine. I missed being spoiled and cuddled and given mama’s homemade medicine every hour. So anytime I felt sick at Mount Holyoke, I would throw a rather extravagant pity party for myself. Soon enough I would hear the wise words of my mother echoing in the back of my mind. You see every time I would moan and groan about being sick she would spoil me with love and affection and then say with a stern tone, “Iman, there are people who have it worse than you. People who do not have the luxury of getting better. People who are suffering way more than you are. Remember them.” Of course that meant my pity party was cut short and now I would have to think of all that I am blessed with. So let's count our blessings, thank God for our opportunities, fate for bringing us here, our families for slaving away day after day to make it possible, our friends for their emotional support, staff for relieving us of duties such as cleaning and cooking so we can focus on chasing our dreams. For our professors who bestow on us their knowledge and grace so we can build the foundation for our future, and ourselves, for waking up every morning and finding a reason to make the most out of our day. Of course it helps to have that weekly reminder from our parents that money does not grow on trees and they work hard to pay for our education and if we do not make the most of it.....dot dot dot they never finish that sentence. Letting our minds wander to pretty scary scenarios- talk about parental strategy.

So why all these? Why have our families, our loved ones, Mount Holyoke professors, staff and our community invested their life savings, precious time and 100% of their energy in each one of us? So we can find a great job and pay them back every cent? For those parents who are thinking “Oh God yes!” I can tell you that is wishful thinking speaking on your behalf. Is it so that we can mention our professors in our speeches and best seller books or on our interviews with Oprah? That is our wishful thinking. We are being pushed, nudged, sculpted and molded in a million different directions so that we become successful and find what we love to do in this world. Yes money and status can be part of the deal but not the only part. Randolf Pausch could have not put it any better. For those of you who do not know him, he was a computer science Professor at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was given less than a year to live. He decided to give a last lecture, as he called it, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” which shortly became a YouTube sensation. It summarized what he thought were the most important life lessons.In his commencement speech at CMU months before he passed away he said, “Find your passion and follow it and if there is anything that I have learned in my life, it is that you will not find your passion in things. You will not find that passion in money because the more things and the more money you have the more you will just look around and use that as a metric and there will always be someone with more. So the passion must come from inside.” Cliché right? Right. But there is a reason it is a cliché. It means many people pondered the same thought and came upon a similar conclusion time and time again. Just like in science, a hypothesis cannot be a theory until extensive research has been done and a concrete explanation has been deduced. So let’s just call this a working hypothesis where each of us will continue our pursuit for our inner passion to see if that equates to happiness and success. Note, though we may be graduating from the same college, with the same degree and the same grades, we will all be thrown in different paths and we will have to figure it all out. Just like we did when we first walked through the doors of kindergarten and all those small innocent eyes watched as we cried (when we promised ourselves we wouldn’t) and our parents peeled us off of them and kissed us goodbye. Or just like the first day we walked into Mount Holyoke and set up camp in new territory. We learn. We fall. We crawl. We fall again. And we adapt. So we will be flung into the real world-for some it may be as soon as tomorrow depending on how badly our parents want us out. The fortunate few, will be given a pity period of about 2 months but soon enough we will have to make that first leap-to find a job, to start a job, to do your masters or to travel. Whatever our next move- we should not be afraid- do not fear change (yes mount Holyoke that slogan has caught on) because we have come face to face with new beginnings and challenges many more times than we think. The real world is just an evolved bigger scarier monstrous version of it on steroids.

So what weapons are you packing for the real world? What will you take with you on the next journey of your life? Underwear, a toothbrush and a million copies of your degree-laminated, sealed, framed, in a titanium case (you know in case you lose it or real world people don't believe you or just because you want to flash it at someone’s face). Here are my suggestions. Let's pack with us the relationships we have built, the shenanigans we were part of in the name of YOLO. Let's fold neatly and tuck in the corners of our suitcases the skills that we have developed over the past four years. Pack the knowledge we have acquired not only in the classroom but outside of the classroom. Hold on dearly to the interesting and rich conversations we had, sat in dining halls, at Blanchard, on our way to M&C’s to grab that last cupcake, in laundry rooms or in elevators because unless you end up working for an organization like the UN, it will be rare to sit amongst people from a variety of countries and backgrounds and even then, everyone might not be as interesting to listen to as our fellow Moho classmates. Layer one bright idea over another epiphany because this is what we will capitalize on once we are out there. Let us not leave behind our failures or our mistakes, all the wrong decisions we made have paved the path to today.

Finally, let us preserve the power of our voices and not leave it behind as we drive away from this place we have come to know as home. We have spent the last four years nourishing, cultivating and enriching it. It is here that we taught it to rise amongst stereotypes. It is here that it battled with other voices day after day, month after month and in the end established its own unique pitch. We are transformed young women with a strong voice to express our identity and our beliefs. So let me hear you class of 2014- hear you embrace and celebrate our day, our moment of impact. Here we come real world- here come the women of change prepared for our next collision.