Graduation 2020 – Mr. Saba Vejdani
June 16, 2020 | By Saba Vejdani
Mr. Vejadani (in grey) with students in his classroom, 2020.
Many years ago now, I was sitting where you graduates are sitting, maybe not exactly, and having those same feelings of happiness and accomplishment. I wasn’t paying too much attention to the person speaking on our behalf and I do not remember much of what was said. I am hopeful that this graduating class is more mature and sophisticated than mine and that you are listening. Your parents and this great school have done all they can to prepare you for life and you are now about to embark on this great adventure. I am here because you nominated me, am deeply grateful and will cherish this opportunity. I am extremely proud to be your teacher.
The speech that I’m going to share with you today is not going to focus on each of you individually. You all know that each of you has left a mark on this school, and also has a very special place in my heart. Instead, it is a speech written in the hopes that each of you is able to learn something from it. What you take away may be different for each of you based on what you need to hear in the moment but hopefully something nevertheless.
When I finished high-school, which feels like a life-time ago, I began the next chapter of my life going straight to University. I moved into residence at the University of Guelph and became solely focused on my academics. I’ll never forget my first ever class was Calculus 1, on the opposite side of campus. It was an 8:30 am class on a Monday morning and I showed up at 8 am ready to go! I was floating through the daily mire of life, the things society told me were important. It wasn’t until my third year of University, where many of you know, I had my lung collapse that things changed. It was the toughest year of my life, my courses were extremely difficult, I mean if you think Bio 12 was tough, get ready! Trying to be cool was killing me, and honestly, trying to get a girlfriend was rough! I was so entirely focused on the wrong things, so much so that I lost sight of what was important, and my body and brain decided it was time for me to take a break. I remember being in the hospital room after I had been there a few days already, and having a chest tube removed and being rushed into ICU to get another one put in, with my mom praying next to my bed and being angry and asking her “Why would you pray to God? Why would God do this?” Thinking back, I had never really questioned my faith. I had no reason to. But during the previous few years, I had forgotten a lot about it. I wasn’t as active as I used to be and when I was, it wasn’t the same as before. It wasn’t until I started my recovery, began my year of service way up in Sudbury Ontario that I learned how to truly reflect on my own life and realized I was actually being given a free reset. When I reflected on the fact that this was an opportunity for me to change my perspective of what I thought was important, and what society told me was important, that I began to understand true happiness. My focus changed, I changed.
Mr. Vejdani showing off pictures of himself drawn by students during a Wildfire retreat during 2019.
When I began to reorient my life to ensure that service to humankind, principles such as genuine kindness and love were at the forefront of my interactions with others, that I noticed a change in my life and attitude. I try every day to make sure that whatever I’m doing has service at the core of it, as I hope you will too. It doesn’t even have to be anything big, it’s the little things that can make a difference in someone’s life.
Noticing someone struggling with a challenging situation and helping them without saying anything. Seeing something that needs to be done, even if you’re really tired, but getting up to do it because you know it’ll help. Sitting next to someone who might be feeling a little lonely. Listening to someone who feels like they don’t have anyone to talk to. I won’t lie to you, I’m still working on it, and probably will continue to work on it for the rest of my life, and I am certain you all will too.
I hope that you are always ready to reflect. How can you be the best person that you can be? How can you ensure that your challenges don’t stop you in your tracks, but that they motivate and inspire you to do better. To be better.
To end this speech, I wanted to share with you a quote someone said to me at my University graduation that I’ve never forgotten, and does sound a little bit like something I’d say:
Failure is an essential part of learning and of life. And if your uniform isn’t dirty, you haven’t been in the game.
Thank you for granting me the opportunity to speak to you all. I’ll miss each and every one of you, even though I can’t wait for you guys to get out of here. Never forget that Mr. V always has your back!