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Nicholas V. Taylor, who delivered the Student Graduate Address at Harford Community College’s 60th Annual Commencement in May 2018, started classes at HCC while still in high school. After graduating from high school, he took a job at a local bank where he is now the assistant branch manager. At HCC, he studied business marketing, served as an English tutor for three semesters, and helped coach multiple students in different subjects. Nick continues to juggle his job, being a successful student, and starting his own investment business. He will be transferring to UMUC to double major in business administration and cyber security with a minor in finance.
Here is the text of Nick’s speech to his fellow graduates, their families, and friends:
Hello, Class of 2018! I would like to take a second to acknowledge President Phillips and the Harford Community College board, the distinguished faculty and staff. It is an honor and a privilege to be here at APGFCU arena alongside my fellow honorees, special guests, gathered here today. Most of all, it is an honor to be here with you all: the class of 2018. Before I begin, I want to give a personal thank you to my friends and family. Without your unwavering support I would not be the person I am today.
With every moment in life comes the ability to learn and grow, and I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the more difficult lessons I have learned over the past few years. One of the more recent examples has been learning to not rush life by living on someone else's timeline. After I graduated high school, my plan was to earn my associate in two years and transfer to a four-year college. But life, as it tends to do, got in the way, and at the age of 18 I got my first real job as a personal banker. Through hard work and a little help from the man who hired me, who later became my mentor and best friend, I became the number one banker in the company. This prompted me to begin developing my own definition of success. After working there for three years, I decided to take a step back and work part time so I could really focus on my schooling. After three years of professional success leading me to believe I was “ahead” of schedule, I quickly realized that I wasn’t ahead or behind -- I was exactly where I was supposed to be according to my own timeline. In my years at HCC, I have learned invaluable lessons that have shaped me as a person, in my everyday life and my career. From Professor Huddleston giving me a deeper knowledge of business, to Professor Linda Heil giving me the constructive criticism I needed to hear to push myself to be the best writer I could possibly be, to Professor Stiffler who was kind enough to nominate me for this honor to speak today, I have made connections at HCC that will benefit me for years to come. My path has not been direct -- my path has been filled with obstacles, but it has taught me lessons that I believe are crucial to living a life for me and by me. What I am trying to say is, earning a degree is an immense accomplishment regardless of age, getting married is always beautiful no matter the circumstances, starting a family later in life is still a wonderful experience, and buying a house is an awesome achievement even if it takes decades to save up. We must never let societal expectations dictate our self-worth or in any way diminish our accomplishments. Life is too short to try and live it on a schedule – we need to have fun, fall in love, cry when it hurts, and laugh when it is funny. We must live our lives on our own terms at our own pace. After all, there is only one person we are guaranteed to spend the rest of our lives with – ourselves. Samuel L. Jackson once said, “You are never too old to move forward and make the rest of your life, the very best of your life.” He said this after receiving his first offer to star in a motion picture at the age of 52. Billionaire tech mogul Mark Cuban was a bartender at 25; it took until 32 for J.K. Rowling to be published for the Harry Potter series after being rejected by multiple publishers, and Steve Carell only got his big break after 40 years old. Don’t let society rush us with their timeline, because as Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that’s counted truly counts.” As humans, we have a miraculous gift – the gift of being able to build our lives from the ground up in the manner we see fit. Success does not limit itself to an age, lifestyle, gender, or race. It frees itself to be found by any one at any time.
Success is one of the most subjective words in the English language. Even the Oxford dictionary could not develop a definition more specific than, “Achieving the desired aim or result.” There are many who measure success by the number of 0’s in their salary. For some, this leads to a happy life, but there is so much more to success than one’s net worth. Truth is, that one’s worth is not based on any monetary value, but on the effect you have on others. As Maya Angelow said, “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will not forget how you made them feel.” The point I am trying to make is that success is what you make it. Perhaps it is getting into a particular degree program, getting a promotion at work, or even starting a family. Do not compare your success to someone else’s; we all have different definitions and expectations of the word. We need to be happy with where we are in life and as challenging as some days are, try to find three positive things that happen to us each day. They could be as simple as waking up, making it safely to work, and being lucky enough to have a job. Because you cannot rewind one year, one day, one hour, or one second of this life. Today is a day to rejoice with happiness and celebrate our achievement; we should all be extremely proud of ourselves.
Something I found myself doing often is attempting to live my life in stages. I have said for the longest time, “I am going to be happy when I graduate” or “I will be happy when I have kids, or when I buy a house or when I get married.” I got caught living my life in pieces or stages and waiting for the completion of a stage to begin experiencing happiness. I urge all of us to learn from the past, keep tomorrow in mind, and prepare for the future – but to live in the present. If we constantly tell ourselves, "I will be happy when ‘blank’ happens," we will find ourselves in a perpetual state of waiting and malaise. Enjoy today for the little things --appreciate the birds singing or the blessing of waking up in the morning, apply for that job, take the chance with a new opportunity that you might not be comfortable with. The late Heath Ledger once said, “Everyone you meet always asks if you have a career, are married or own a house as if life was some sort of grocery list. But no one ever asks if you are happy.” The want and need of acceptance can make you invisible in this life; do not let anything stop you from being the person you are. Risk being seen in all your wonder and all your glory. So many people say life happens to you, but my challenge to each of us in this room is to make life happen for you. We ask the universe to hand us what we desire; it may give it to us and it may not. Nevertheless, we will receive what we demand with our actions. There will be sightless alleys, jobs that crush our spirits, nights that drain us, wake-up calls that come entirely too early, and crossroads with no discernable direction signs. Each one of these moments will lead to their own moment of transcendence when we realize it was all worth it, and we become transformed by that experience. I stumbled upon a story recently and the title is “I dreamt I had an interview with God.” It starts by someone asking God "What surprises you most about mankind?" God answers, "That they get bored of being children, are in a rush to grow up, and then long to be children again. That they lose their health to make money, and then lose their money to restore their health. That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live neither for the present nor the future.” The author of this story is unknown, but it truly resonated with me. I am moving onto an all online college, and now I am realizing that I did not appreciate the little things that made HCC special to me. Things like the convenient commute from work to HCC’s campus, or the personal connections I made with classmates, and the ability to walk into a professor’s office and ask questions. I will never have those experiences again. I wish I could have slowed down and savored those moments.
Something that has resonated with me throughout my life is that no matter what happens or how bad today seems, that life goes on and tomorrow will be better. I have learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. I have learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, it usually proves to have been the right decision. I have learned that everything eventually ends – love, youth – and this is what makes every moment so valuable. As we get older, we will realize that no one has all the answers. It turns out that life is an exercise in living with the certainty of uncertainty. Life is unpredictable; not everything is in our control. But if we are with the right people, we can handle anything. So, we need to live our lives without regrets; it goes by in the blink of an eye. On the final episode of my favorite TV show, The Office, Andy Bernard says, “I wish there was someone to tell you that you are in the good ole days, before you have already left them.” You are in the good ole days now; start living like it. Seize the day, be successful, live your life on your terms, and enjoy the ride.
And so, class of 2018, I will leave you with this: Remember the solid foundation you have created for your future here at Harford Community College, push forward with your life and use those tools to achieve groundbreaking innovations, stand up for what is right, make sacrifices, care about your neighbors, and one day it will just click. My hope is that we will realize what is important and what we truly value. We will learn to care less about what other people think and more about what we think of ourselves. You will realize how far you have come and you will remember when you thought things were such a mess that you would never recover. And you will smile, you will smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you fought to be. Most importantly, I want everyone in this room to be able to create meaningful, purposeful, fulfilling lives for ourselves – and learn how to use that to make an impact and a difference in the lives of others. You only have so many days in this life; don’t waste a single one living someone else’s. Thank you all very much and Godspeed.
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