But how can you do that with the knowledge that things are so unstable out there? I’ll tell you my secret, the one thing that has kept me going through the years, my super power. Delusion.
This is something I may share with our president, a fact that is both horrifying and interesting. Two years in, I think we can pretty safely say that he’s not getting carved onto Mount Rushmore but damn if that is not a testament to how far you can get by just by believing that you are the smartest, most successful person in the world.
My point is, you have to have insane confidence in yourself, even if it’s not real. You need to be your own cheerleader now because there isn’t a room full of people waiting with pom poms to tell you “You did it! We’ve been waiting all this time for you to succeed!”
So I’m giving you permission to root for yourself. And while you’re at it, root for those around you too. It took me a long time to realize that success isn’t a zero sum game, which leads me to the next part of my remarks.
I thought I might take a second to speak to the ladies in the audience. Guys, take a break. You don’t have to pay attention during this part. Maybe spend the next 30 seconds thinking about all the extra money you’ll make in your life for doing the same job as a woman. Pretty sweet.
Hey, girls. We need to do a better job of supporting each other. I know that I am guilty of it too. We live in a world where it seems like there’s only room for one of us at the table.
So when another woman shows up, we think “Oh my God, she’s going to take the one woman spot. That was supposed to be mine.” But that’s just what certain people want us to do. Wouldn’t it be better if we worked together to dismantle a system that makes us feel like there’s limited room for us?
Because when women work together, we can accomplish anything, even stealing the world’s most expensive diamond necklace from the Met Gala, like in Ocean’s Eight, a movie starring me which opens in theaters June 8th.
And to that end, women, don’t be ashamed to toot your own horn like I just did.
Okay, guys, you can listen again. You didn’t miss much. Just remember to see Ocean’s Eight, now playing in theaters nationwide. Ocean’s Eight, every con has its pros.
Now I wanted to share a little bit about me, Mindy Kaling, the Dartmouth student.
When I came to Hanover in the fall of 1997, I was as many of you were. Driven, bright, ambitious, and really, really into the Black Eyed Peas.
I arrived here as a 17-year old, took the lay of the land, and immediately began making a checklist of everything I wanted to accomplish. I told myself that by the time I graduated in 2001, I would have checked them all off.
And here is my freshman fall checklist. Be on Hanover Crew, be on Launch Crew. Be in an acapella group, be in an improv troupe, write a play that’s performed at the Bentley, and do a cartoon for the D. And try to be in a cool senior society. Guess what?
I completed that checklist. But before you think:”Wait, why is this woman just bragging about her accomplishments from 17 years ago?”
Then I graduated and I made a new checklist for my 20s. Get married by 27, have kids at 30, win an Oscar, be the star of my own TV show, host the MTV Music Awards. This was 2001, guys, it made more sense then. And do it all while being a size two.
Well, spoiler alert, I’ve only done one of those things and I’m not sure I will ever do the others. And that is a really scary feeling, knowing how far that I’ve strayed from the person that I was hoping to be when I was 21.
I will tell you a personal story. After my daughter was born in December, I remember bringing her home and being in my house with her for the first time, thinking “Huh, according to movies and TV, this is traditionally the time when my mother and spouse are supposed to be here, sharing this experience with me.”
And I looked around and I had neither. And for a moment, it was kind of scary, like can I do this by myself? But then that feeling went away because the reality is I’m not doing it by myself. I’m surrounded by family and friends who love and support me.
And the joy I feel from being with my daughter Katherine eclipses anything from any crazy checklist.
So I just want to tell you guys, don’t be scared if you don’t do things in the right order or if you don’t do some things at all. I didn’t think I’d have a child before I got married but hey, it turned out that way and I wouldn’t change a thing.
I didn’t think I’d have dessert before breakfast today but hey, it turned out that way and I wouldn’t change a thing.
So if I could impart any advice, it’s this. If you have a checklist, good for you. Structured ambition can sometimes be motivating. But also, feel free to let it go.
Yes, my culminating advice from my speech is a song from the Disney animated movie Frozen.
I’ve covered a lot of ground today, not all of it was serious, but I wanted to leave you with this. I was not someone who should have the life I have now and yet I do.
I was sitting in the chair you are literally sitting in right now and I just whispered “Why not me?” And I kept whispering it for 17 years and here I am, someone that this school deemed worthy enough to speak to you at your commencement.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, but especially not yourself. Go conquer the world. Just remember this. Why not you? You made it this far.