【校长寄语】Dr. Paul Andrew：面朝阳光，抒写自己的人生故事
I’ve recently seen several graduation speeches online as they are happening around the world at the moment. I noticed that often the speaker tells a story about their experience as an inspiration to the graduates. On my first day at the school, I shared some of the stories of my journey coming here. I shared my story so you could understand a little of who I am and why I am here.
Part of my story I shared includes how shortly after we were married, my wife received word that her father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and we decided that it would be best if we returned to Hong Kong to be with him. While in Hong Kong, I met the librarian at the International Christian School, and he introduced me to the school; and I stayed at the International Christian School in Hong Kong for 18 years.
Then, when my son graduated high school, we decided it was an excellent opportunity to try something new. So, I started to look at different schools to see what a new challenge might look like. When I was invited to come to mainland China to start a school, I saw this as a crazy idea, as a new challenge. So, I found myself just north of here in Suqian at Peking University Experimental School, starting an international division at a school like this one.
Now I find myself here at JIS, a new chapter of my story. I did not expect to come to JIS; I had never heard of JIS until a friend heard I was looking and introduced me to JIS. I hope that I can be a blessing here to enable people to grow and be what they are called to be.
I am not an adventurous person, and so as I share my story I feel a sense of amazement that I have been on such a journey; but also at times also feelings of regret that I allowed my life to pushed by what is happening around me.
I once heard a quote that said, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans”, and in many ways, this is true of my journey through life. I let things that happened around me to direct my path; whether it was for good or for bad, I just responded to what was happening. From an early age I had a dream, a calling, a vision for what I wanted to do, but I was not always proactive enough to follow that. Instead I let life push me around and maybe I would react and pull myself back toward my dream.
But I don’t want to talk about my story, I want you to think about the story that you are writing for yourselves. Up to now, much of that story has probably been written by your parents or maybe your teachers or others in your life. However, now is the time when you are transitioning to a new phase of life where you are heading off to a new place, probably by yourself, and need to begin to take full responsibility for your story.
I would challenge each of you who are graduating, and as you begin to write your own story, you do not allow life to just happen. Instead, commit to keeping what is important to you as your goal and not allow distractions to pull you away from achieving that goal. Ask yourself, what is your calling, and commit to being faithful to that.
So it is important to focus on your goal, your vision, your calling. However, I want to remind you that it is often said that it is the journey and not the destination that is important. Because we are defined by our story, our journey, and how we respond to those events, I would encourage you to be open to surprises, be willing to take a risk, and look for new challenges. You will be surprised about how your journey will change you, make you stringer, and be a blessing to others.
Living our lives is like writing a story, so we can think about how we live our lives in the way we might write a story. It is important to understand the difference between the plot and the story when writing a story. We can understand this difference in terms of conflict.
External conflict, or the plot, is all about what happens to the characters, and often these things are beyond our control.Internal conflict, or the story, is about why it matters to the characters and relates to how we respond.
So, the story is not about what happens; it’s about how what happens affects and transforms the characters—a transformation created by the internal tension as revealed in the story.
In a story, the internal conflict arises in the tension between what we desire and what we fear. So, it is critical to ask questions such as what will bring you true happiness or contentment? How is your fear stopping you from going after that? What is your misbelief about what you can do, and what happened in your past to create this misbelief? What I am doing to help or hinder my story, so for example am I reading good books or am I hurting my thinking by spending too much time on social media.
As the main character, don’t let you be the punching bag for the plot. Instead, the story must be character-driven. Because it’s you, the character in the story, who is going on a journey to realize the truth about something – the truth that you want to scream from the rooftops
So as you leave this place to begin the next chapter of your story, think carefully about what you truly care about in this life, your vision, your calling. Maybe it is not something that will happen right now, but start to ask yourself what do you need to do now and in the future to make sure your journey, your story leads you to achieving that vision. Then commit yourself to that, and learn to discern when to change or ignore distractions around you that will pull you away from achieving your dream.
All this might sound daunting, difficult, impossible even, but it is not. We are not alone, and we have family, and friends to walk the journey with us to help us keep what matters our focus. As long as we keep our focus in the right place, our journey will be successful. Walt Whitman gave us a key to being successful in this when he said, “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”