Cynia Sherell Barnwell MA ‘15:
Graduate Student Speaker

Cynia Sherell BarnwellGraduates, professors, staff, and esteemed guests, welcome!

I’d like to start with some thank yous. I would like to thank my grandmother, mom, dad, aunts, uncles, and my brother for your love and everlasting support. A thank you to the Sarah Lawrence professors and staff is also in order for cultivating my growth, and ensuring that I felt respected and listened to. Finally, I would like to thank Wikipedia and Google, for without you, none of this would be possible.

Students, soon memories of our time on this campus, the late nights taken to write that paper, the way your professor pronounces “pontification,” and the unusually high prices of a Snickers bar in the library’s vending machines will fade and while you’ll remember that you graduated, you might forget this moment. A great thinker once said, “You will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory,” so let’s take a moment to embrace this accomplishment and appreciate this moment. Oh, before I forget, that great thinker that I mentioned earlier was SpongeBob SquarePants, who for some is indeed a great thinker, who knows? Seriously, we can all learn a lot from cartoons. Cartoons are not afraid to be silly, or try something new, or learn a new lesson, or embrace their youth and smallness.

Life is a funny thing, when you’re young, you want to be old, and when you’re old, you long to be young. But youth has nothing to do with age, it has to do with a “can do” spirit and joy in everyday occurrences. No doubt, when you showcase your childlike exuberance, someone will tell you to “grow up” or “act your age, not your shoe size,” but don’t let that stifle you and do not respond in anger or contempt, simply remind them of the importance of play. “Play” is not only for children, play harkens us back to our true selves, play allows us to be innovative, to think about possibilities not limitations. So at any age, let’s play! While we are at it, let’s remember that you can choose what it means to be an adult. If your version of being an adult means eating cheez-its for dinner then have at it! Maybe your version of adulting means pretending to be pregnant to get a seat on the subway—then by all means! The point is we should all strive to be everyday heroes in our own lives because treating ourselves well empowers us to treat others well. As children, we lament when we can’t do something—“But I’m too little” or “But, I’m small”—and it’s true, even now, we are small. In the grand scheme of things, we are small and we can all be undone by one another, but just because we are small doesn’t mean we are powerless. Bette Reese says, “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito”.

And now, some Instagram wisdom; may you carry these words when your path gets rough, your faith gets weary, or you run out of Nutella:

  • Never let someone treat you like a yellow Starburst; you my dear, are a pink Starburst
  • Love yourself like Kanye West loves Kanye West
  • If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried

If you fall, remember that just because you are down, doesn’t mean you are defeated. Get up and dust your self off because if you can survive the long hours spent waiting for the shuttle in the middle of a snow storm, then you can survive anything.

Thanks for your time and play on.