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Jane Lynch為2012年史密斯學院畢業生演講

Jane Lynch Commencement Address to Smith College Class of 2012

 

Photo of three lions hunting on the Serengeti.

講者:Jane Lynch

2012年5月20日演講

 

翻譯:洪曉慧

編輯:朱學恆

簡繁轉換:洪曉慧

後製:洪曉慧

字幕影片後制:謝旻均

 

影片請按此下載

閱讀中文字幕純文字版本

 

關於這場演講(來源Smith College

艾美獎與金球獎得主Jane Lynch於2012年5月20日(星期日)擔任史密斯學院第134屆畢業典禮演講者。

 

關於Jane Lynch(來源Wikipedia

Jane Lynch(出生於1960年7月14日)是美國女演員、喜劇演員及歌手。她曾榮獲金球獎、艾美獎、美國演員工會獎、全美民選獎及金衛星獎。Lynch也曾榮獲第一屆PlanetOut.com短片獎、佛羅里達影評人協會獎和羅德岱堡國際電影節評委會獎。Lynch並不諱言自己的同志性向,並於2005年榮獲POWER UP電影公司提名為「演藝圈十大傑出女同志」之一。

 

Jane Lynch為2012年史密斯學院畢業生演講

 

十分感謝Christ校長、校董會委員、各位傑出校友、各位榮譽學位得主;我十分榮幸能身為其中一員。其中有建築師、氣象學家、作家,我能擔任演講者只因為我演過《歡樂合唱團》(笑聲)。這是什麼世界!(笑聲)

 

各位家長、來賓,當然,還有-2012年史密斯學院全體畢業生!(歡呼聲)(掌聲)

 

各位女士,妳們即將領到一張紙,向世人證明現在妳已經有資格加入菁英行列,成為能改變遊戲規則的強大女性力量(歡呼聲)。2012年史密斯學院畢業生!(歡呼聲)

 

史密斯女性曾經改變了烹調方式(笑聲)、領導社會運動、創作傑出文學作品。以我的朋友-1992年畢業生Piper來說,甚至還進了監獄!(尖叫聲)(笑聲)但該死的-即使一位史密斯人入獄,依然能藉此機會寫出一本充滿智慧、引人入勝的書!(笑聲)(歡呼聲)(掌聲)

 

希望大家明白,妳們坐在專屬席位上,臉上閃耀著奪目的光彩,在學士帽和學士服的襯托下看起來神采飛揚。希望大家明白,妳們是畢業典禮嘉賓。(笑聲)(掌聲)

 

妳們的表現確實比我1982年大學畢業典禮當天優秀得多。年輕時,我深受滿腹不安和莫名地焦慮所苦。很長一段歲月,我彷彿無頭蒼蠅似地無所適從,這種持續徬徨的狀態導致我寄出畢業登記表時忘了貼郵票,也沒附上回郵地址(笑聲)。歷經四年心不在焉的大學生活,我成了伊利諾州立大學不折不扣的「C」等學生(歡呼聲)。謝謝(笑聲)。妳們可以再瘋狂一點(笑聲)。

 

在有著巧妙名稱的伊利諾州諾默爾市(Normal,原意為正常)(笑聲),我坐在妳們現在所坐的位置,向上帝祈禱台上會喊出我的名字,讓我領到畢業證書(笑聲)。就在信封離開我的手、落到郵筒裡那一刻,我意識到自己在郵件上犯的愚蠢錯誤。我並沒有設法補救這個錯誤,而是做了當我不知所措、試著控制衝動時習慣做的事-我將手指交叉,祈禱能有最好的結果(笑聲)。

 

當天,我全家人都坐在觀眾席中,我戴著學士帽、穿著學士服,當沒人注意時,我朝著他們猛揮手。我和好友Jeannie Mahoney合坐在一張椅子上,我屏住呼吸,祈禱能聽見我的名字。當台上喊完L開頭的姓氏,開始喊M開頭的姓氏時,我的心沉到谷底。當Jeannie從院長手中接過文憑時,她在他耳邊低聲說,我的名字沒被喊到。令我感激不已地,他在她之後喊了我的名字。雖然他沒頒給我畢業證書,但確實和我握了手(笑聲)。我父母坐在觀眾席後方,對實際情形一無所知(笑聲)。

 

我知道,台下沒有任何人會以如此漫不經心的態度迎接這個重要的日子,因為妳們是2012年史密斯學院畢業生(歡呼聲)(掌聲)。妳們是傑出的女性,如果不是,今天就不會在這裡。

 

我自認對史密斯女性相當瞭解,因為我和其中一位結為連理(歡呼聲)(掌聲)。我會瞭解,是因為我和貴校1991年畢業生Lara生活在一起,也因為我深愛1991年畢業生Lara(笑聲)。

 

在這所卓越的大學就讀會造就十分與眾不同的體驗。妳們將踏上不同的人生旅程,但妳們永遠是史密斯人。妳們是傑出的史密斯女性,妳們獨立自主、聰穎過人、引領潮流、充滿自信,而且強勢地令人吃驚(笑聲)。正如我說過的,我和其中一位生活在一起(笑聲)。我毫不懷疑妳們將會延續這個傳統;妳們將會改變世界。各位女士。我們確實需要妳們,比以往任何時候都需要,但此時此刻,各位年輕女士和Ada Comstocks學者計畫成員(歡呼聲),在這個喜氣洋洋的日子裡,我希望妳們深吸一口氣,用心體會,別虛度了這一天。即使家人的包圍令妳暈頭轉向,或也許妳本來就有點醉了(笑聲)。請深吸一口氣,妳們已經順利完成求學旅程,在這所卓越的教育殿堂裡,妳們必定付出了全副心力。我想告訴大家,如果我能再年輕一次,我會更用心體會這樣的時刻,我會花更多時間專注於眼前的一切,而不是退縮逃避,只因為情況看起來或感覺起來並非我所預期。我不會一直左顧右盼地張望:「然後呢?然後呢?」我會好好享受當下的美妙、迎向生命中的一切、向它大聲說,「沒問題,請繼續!」

 

這引出了我今天想和大家分享的主題。今天的主角是妳們,但請容我稍微談一點自己的事(笑聲)。我出生時-(笑聲)是個滿臉通紅、不滿地尖叫著的嬰兒,有著閃閃發亮的藍眼和胖嘟嘟的臉頰(笑聲)。懷著滿腹沮喪,我感到自己在這個世界和這副身軀裡顯得格格不入,因為我堅信-我應該是個男孩。年輕時,我大多時候都沉浸在極度失望的情緒中,因為每件事看起來或感覺起來都跟我想像中大不相同。我希望能脫下上衣、騎上自行車、奔馳整個夏天。我想打少棒;我不想穿洋裝或燙頭髮;只有在湛藍的天空下才會令我感到自在。所以妳們可以想像我今天十分興奮。

 

但我住在伊利諾州,當地的冬季一直持續到5月,通常不曾經歷過春季。如果天色陰暗多雲-這在伊利諾州是家常便飯-我可憐的媽媽就開始擔心我會因為失望而大發雷霆。我覺得這個世界一切都是針對我,我就這麼度過了將近27年的人生,直到我經歷一個重大的教訓,但當時的我幾乎毫無所覺。

 

當時我自詡為一位嚴肅的演員,喜劇演出完全不在我生涯規劃的列表上。事實上,我認為這多少有損我的尊嚴。但出人意料地,The Second City雇用了我。如果有人不知道的話,The Second City是一個芝加哥劇團(歡呼聲)。沒錯,它是即興劇搖籃,曾孕育出Tina Fey、Amy Poehler、Rachel Dratch、Nia Vardolos和一些妳們或許聽過的演員,那是他們事業生涯的起點(笑聲)。

 

當時的我是一位十分古板的年輕女子,執著於程序、規則。剛從研究所畢業的我,坦白說,是一位受過傳統表演訓練的老古板(笑聲)。從事即興劇表演就像跳下一座懸崖,這是一門不存在任何規則的藝術,除了一條規則,這條規則叫做「沒問題,請繼續!」

 

「沒問題,請繼續!」是即興劇中極為重要且唯一的規則,那就是千萬別打斷同劇演員。你應該有意願及能力承接同劇演員給你的任何挑戰,利用它做為表演的開端,然後「加強或探索」-這是我們的說法。例如,若是我說,「把手舉起來,搶劫!」若妳說,「那不是槍,只是妳的手指而已!」那就沒戲唱了。或如果我說,「今天天氣真好!」若妳說,「不,現在是隆冬,正下著雪呢!」戲就唱不下去了。或如果我對妳說,「來吧,親愛的,我們上床吧!」若妳說,「妳不是我老婆,把妳的褲子穿回去!」(笑聲)那要怎麼繼續?(笑聲)我該怎麼辦?(笑聲)這一幕到此為止,我會像光著屁股被逮到一樣尷尬(笑聲)。

 

好,為了讓戲能演下去,我們會肯定另一位演員的說法,這就是規則中「沒問題」的部分。我們接受它、加以發展,這就是規則中「請繼續」的部分。換句話說,為了在人生道路上繼續前進、為了充分體驗人生,我們必須勇於接受眼前的挑戰,無論是什麼。好的、壞的、驚心動魄的、令人心碎的,每一種情緒、狀況、事件、人物、地點或事物,妳們都將會有所體驗,這就是我所謂的「沒問題」。全心全意地接受和擁抱這一切、採取行動,這就是所謂的「請繼續!」妳接受它的影響,然後發揮妳的影響。妳無法讓陰天變晴天,但妳可以擁抱它,試著讓它成為美好的一天。

 

我是由相反的過程領悟到這個道理。令我刻骨銘心的最初體驗是從「不,但是」開始。當我還是高一新鮮人時,我參加《醜小鴨》故事系列獨幕劇《豌豆公主》中的國王角色試鏡,這也是我扮演男性角色的表演生涯起點。我從小就立志成為演員,因此這個機會令我欣喜若狂。試鏡時,我的演出引起滿場笑聲;但第一次排練時,卻得不到同樣的效果。我得不到觀眾的喜愛,於是退出劇團。我深受打擊、滿腹疑惑。我不明白自己做錯了什麼,十四歲的我不知該如何處理這種情緒。我爬上畢生渴望的夢想階梯,但我還來不及爬高,就面臨命運的挑戰,於是我轉身離開。妳們知道為什麼嗎?因為我得不到想像中的感覺、我得不到觀眾的回應,例如滿場笑聲、例如預期中的大受歡迎,我很可能面臨失敗的處境,於是我轉身離開。

 

當時的我還不明白「沒問題,請繼續!」的概念,那就是即使心懷恐懼,依然勇往直前。當妳們在人生道路上前進時,在未來漫長的日子裡,我保證妳會遇上無數次最不想說的就是「沒問題,請繼續!」的情況。妳會體驗到失落、心痛、心愛的人過世;妳或許不得不和愛人說再見。妳會遭受拒絕,也許妳得面對令人憂心的診斷結果。妳會年華不再。解決之道並非在於逃避現實,或假裝它不會發生,妳無法這麼做;妳需要做的是勇敢迎向它們、擁抱它們,讓這些體驗融入妳的生命,將它編織到妳的生命脈絡中。它不僅會使妳堅強,也會使妳柔軟。妳將領悟到同理心的真義,妳不會因此而軟弱。如果妳擁抱眼前的挑戰,而不是拒絕面對,就可以掌握它。如果生命給妳酸苦的檸檬,請抓住它的角、掌握前進的方向。沒錯,我混用了三種比喻(笑聲),別忘了我是個「C」等學生(笑聲)。

 

身為一位滿懷焦慮和恐懼的年輕人,我不顧一切地追尋開啟夢想王國的鑰匙。讓我告訴大家我做對了什麼。高一那年,退出《醜小鴨》演出行列後,我再也不讓自己屈服於恐懼的威脅,至少以表演方面來說。並不是說我再也不會感到恐懼,我只是盡力克服它。我幾乎不放過任何機會,也許其中有些是我應該放棄的。我並不是建議妳們應該對眼前的每個機會都說「沒問題,請繼續!」我知道妳們現在正想著,「Jane,如果要妳拍色情片呢?」(笑聲)對於這個提議,我得說,我會和妳們一樣驚訝,因為不曾有人提供我這樣的機會(笑聲)。

 

但我該接受這種機會嗎?如果生命給我們搶銀行的機會,或逃稅的途徑,或假設它給我們幾小時跟卡達夏家族一起拍攝實境秀的機會(笑聲),浪費幾小時寶貴的時光?(笑聲)對於這一點,我想告訴大家,請相信自己崇高的自我和內心的聲音,妳們會知道何時該說「沒問題,請繼續!」何時該魄力十足地說「想都別想!」(笑聲)

 

這或許不是妳們習慣的處事方法,史密斯學院2012年畢業生!(歡呼聲)妳們是高知識份子(笑聲),妳們受過嚴格的批判性思考訓練,在妳們面前會令人自慚形愧(笑聲)。妳們教育的重點是訓練妳尋找理論的漏洞、提出質疑、不輕易接受任何事物的表象。「沒問題,請繼續!」這句話或許無法自然而然地從妳口中溜出、進入妳的人生。妳們該做的是誠實地審視自我,辨別自己說「不」的原因是出於恐懼,或只是運用良好判斷力的結果。

 

對我來說,最需要克服的困難在於我對計劃的依賴,妳們或許能理解這一點。我認為必須先有計劃或策略才能達成目標。我從小就知道自己想成為演員,我有著無法遏抑、充滿渴望的野心。在芝加哥南部郊區水泥叢林裡長大的我不知該如何才能實現夢想。「給我一份地圖或指導手冊吧,」我向上天祈求,「拜託從天堂派個人下來,牽起我的手,為我指引路徑。」我幾乎成了邪教徒(笑聲)。因此,我藉由原則和規則尋求安全感。在這個對我來說總是令人不安、無法預知及瞬息萬變的世界中,當我等待著一個明確的行動計劃時,至少還擁有一份踏實感的幻象。

 

好,最後的結果是-我還是不得不冒險一試,把握眼前的機會,用「沒問題,請繼續!」迎接一切挑戰。當然,還有全心全意地投入每一件事。我想給妳們一個忠告,史密斯女性們。接受生命給妳的驚喜,別做任何計劃,計劃是給膽小鬼用的(笑聲)。妳們知道,如果我照著計畫在人生道路上前進,我永遠不可能擁有現在的人生。顯然妳們十分擅長擬定計劃,否則不會在這裡。所以快停手!(笑聲)立刻停手!(笑聲)別剝奪自己享受精彩人生的機會,那是妳放棄對目標和藍圖的依賴時才有機會體驗的(笑聲)。妳不需要設定目標。我想,妳們或許跟我一樣對人生感到徬徨,所以妳們知道,當妳感到徬徨不安時,這是個好現象(笑聲)。這象徵著「大好良機正等著妳!」、「某件好事即將發生。」所以別忽視這種不安,勇敢地迎向它。

 

有段日子我手頭有點緊,我接了一堆喜劇演出,穿著褲襪參與《Annie》(音樂劇)中「It’s a Hard Knock Life」的演出對我來說已不再具有吸引力。當時我將近四十歲,陷入創造力和職業生涯瓶頸,恐懼其他人會不斷地超越我。為自己創作一齣戲劇的念頭開始從腦海中浮現,令我惶惶不安。因此,在「沒問題,請繼續!」和不知打哪兒來的膽量驅使下,我做了一些不曾做過的嘗試。那是我人生中的第一次嘗試-連續八週的星期三夜晚,我自掏腰包租了一座劇場,我為劇中角色撰寫了來自我靈魂最深處的獨白。我創造了一小時歡樂的時光。我戰戰兢兢地演出,有時恐懼不安、有時興高采烈。我從不曾這麼自豪過。這開啟了我自信的大門,我蛻變成-這僅是個人淺見-一位藝術家及一位脫胎換骨的女性。現在我成了一位蓄勢待發、有資格更上一層樓的演員。

 

不久後,我遇見Christopher Guest(導演、編劇、演員),獲得《人狗對對碰》的演出機會(歡呼聲)(掌聲)。謝謝(歡呼聲)(掌聲)。當時我40歲,但我終於躍上主流舞台,這是我從未計畫過的事。我也參與了其他使我更接近夢想的盛典,那些場合總是令我想溜之大吉:獲得主持艾美獎的機會、受邀主持《週六夜現場》(歡呼聲)、受邀在史密斯學院畢業典禮演講(歡呼聲)(掌聲)。當我內心吶喊著「不!」時,口中卻不知怎麼地冒出「沒問題,請繼續!」

 

妳們知道,工作並非人生的一切,妳最怕說「沒問題,請繼續!」的時刻,也是最有價值的時刻;我指的是親密關係(笑聲)。無論妳們的選擇是什麼,女士們-丈夫、妻子或人生伴侶-他們會讓妳更瞭解自己,比任何自我省視更有效果。如果在這個過程中,妳並沒有感到十分恐懼或沮喪,表示妳做得並不正確(笑聲)。

 

這會是妳最脆弱的一面,我直到將近五十歲時才領悟到這一點。妳的伴侶無法避免地會發現妳最脆弱的一面,那些妳只耳聞過的駭人行為將開始出現在妳身上,妳心中的魔鬼會毫不猶豫地現身、破壞妳們的關係、試著讓妳無法看清真正的自己。妳的伴侶會盡可能表現出在這種情況下能展現的溫柔,對妳說,「這該死的是怎麼回事?」(笑聲)(掌聲)連妳都會想甩了這樣的自己(笑聲)。

 

別懼怕這個糟透了的自己!面對它、擁抱它、呵護它、將它寫成一首詩,也許它只是需要一個擁抱。別試圖掩飾這樣的自己,在不知不覺中它會展現出強大的影響力,它最黑暗的力量將會征服妳。請接受它的影響,發掘出其中珍貴的意義。

 

沒錯,有時說「沒問題,請繼續!」會讓妳失去一切,但妳獲得的回報、充滿愛的信任感,美妙地令人難以置信。

 

我與妻子相遇的隔天遇見了我的女兒。我不是很喜歡孩子,我比較喜歡狗(笑聲)。但她簡直是為我量身訂做的孩子。她擁有超齡的機智和聰慧,她擁有寬闊的心胸,對人性的弱點十分寬容。我並不是有意將她形容得像達賴喇嘛似的,但她確實與眾不同。

 

有一天,妳會和自己的孩子相遇,或許是親生的,或許是收養的,或許她只是與妳擦身而過,或許她會跟妳回家(笑聲)。我們確實只是與他們「相遇」,因為他們擁有與生俱來的自我,我們並沒有創造他們,我們只是迎接他們的到來。沒有任何事比知道他們看著妳更能驅使妳成為最棒的自己。我在Haden七歲那年與她相遇,現在她十歲了,我們希望八年後能將她送進這所大學(歡呼聲)(掌聲)。

 

孩子的存在也提醒我們生命瞬息萬變、不斷地前進。確實如此,生命的腳步永不停歇,我直到40歲才真正明白這一點。我是一位大器晚成的人,四十大壽對我來說充滿期待,我決定為自己辦個派對,用實際行動紀念這個日子、慶祝這個日子,用「沒問題,請繼續!」迎接它的到來。所以,某天我邁入40歲大關。妳們知道接下來發生了什麼嗎?我邁入41歲(笑聲)。妳們知道之後怎麼了嗎?我邁入42歲!時間就這麼馬不停蹄地前進,我的歲數就這麼不斷地攀升。我喊道,「等等!等一下!快來個人替我按下暫停按鈕!我才剛習慣40歲而已!」時間的腳步隨著年歲的增長而越來越快,世界不斷地變化,所以我給妳們的建議是:活在當下、隨機應變,隨著世界的變化而調整腳步。

 

生命就像一齣大型即興劇,請擁抱這個不斷變化、不斷前進的世界,使用我領悟到的最佳規則:「沒問題,請繼續!」接受世界原本的面貌,同時找出自己的方向。我十分希望能妳們找出自己的方向,妳們是獨一無二的一群。史密斯女性們,過去四年裡,妳們成長的這個環境鼓勵妳們不僅要做自己,還要做最棒的自己、最強大的自己。妳們將擁有許多機會擁抱世界給予妳的一切,我迫不及待地想看見妳們說「請繼續」的那一刻。記得我之前提過史密斯女性的強悍嗎?我期許妳們能強悍地捍衛姐妹們多年前為我們爭取到的婦女健康權(歡呼聲)(掌聲)。我知道史密斯女性將會用「沒問題,請繼續!」迎接這場戰役,對任何試圖剝奪這個權利的人大聲說「想都別想!」(歡呼聲)(掌聲)

 

最後-我知道妳們永遠不會忘記在這裡經歷過的點點滴滴,因為妳們是這個卓越傳統的一部分。當我和妻子參加某個派對時,她會遇見形形色色的人,如果她碰巧遇見一位史密斯人,她們兩人眼睛都會亮起來。她們曾經共享這份深厚的聯繫,她們都擁有這份獨特而非凡的經歷。今天,我也成了一位史密斯人!(歡呼聲)(掌聲)我妻子和妳們經過多年努力才得到的這張紙,我握個手就得到了(笑聲)。我十分驕傲能成為妳們的一份子。好好享受這個日子,謝謝大家。(歡呼聲)(掌聲)

 

以下為系統擷取之英文原文

 About The Talk

Emmy– and Golden Globe–winning actress Jane Lynch was the speaker at Smith College’s 134th commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 20, 2012.
 
About  Jane Lynch
Jane Marie Lynch (born July 14, 1960) is an American actress, comedienne, and singer. She obtained a Golden Globe Award, Emmy Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, People's Choice Award, and Satellite Award. Lynch also received the First Annual PlanetOut.com Short Movie Award, Florida Film Critics Circle Award, and Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival Jury Award. She is open about her lesbianism; in 2005, Lynch was named one of POWER UP's "10 Amazing Gay Women in Showbiz".
 
About The Transcript
I feel so important!
 
Thank you so much, President Christ, the Board of Trustees, distinguished alumnae, my fellow honorary degree recipients, parents and friends, and of course, all of you, the Smith College Class of 2012!
 
You are about to receive a piece of paper that proves to the world you are now fit to join the ranks of an elite and tremendously powerful group of game-changing women. Smith women have transformed cuisine, spearheaded social movements, created great literature and, in the case of my friend Piper, class of ’92, even gone to prison! But damnit — when a Smithie goes to prison — she writes a clever and compelling book about it!
 
Just know, the fact that you sit here in a chair assigned to you, with your bright, shiny faces, looking gorgeous in caps and gowns, you’ve actually done far more than I was able to accomplish on my college graduation day back in 1982.
 
As a young person I was a victim of overwhelming angst and free-floating anxiety. I spent a great deal of my time running around like a chicken with its head cut off. This ongoing frenzy caused me to send in my graduation registration without a stamp or return address.
 
After my four mostly unfocused years as a solid “C” student at Illinois State University, in the aptly named Normal, Illinois, I sat where you now sit, hoping to God my name would be called and I would receive a diploma. I realized my postal booboo just as the envelope left my hand and dropped into the mailbox. Instead of figuring out a way to remedy this, I did what I have always done when I lack forethought and impulse control; I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. 
With my entire family out there in the audience, wearing a cap and gown I swiped when no one was looking, sharing a chair with my friend Jeannie Mahoney, I held my breath and prayed to hear my name. They finished with the L’s, and were on to the M’s, when my heart sank. As Jeannie took her diploma from our dean, she whispered in his ear that my name had been left out. Gratefully, he called mine after hers. He didn’t have a diploma for me but he did shake my hand. My parents, sitting way in the back, were none the wiser.
 
I know that none of you would have been so scattered and unfocused leading up to this day because you are the Smith Class of 2012. You are exceptional women, and if you were not you would not be here. I feel I know quite a bit about Smith women, because I married one of you. I know from living with Lara class of ’91, and loving Lara class of ’91, that the experience of attending this fabulous college is transformative. Your lives will take different paths, but you will always be Smithies.
 
You are the women of Smith. You are fiercely independent, wicked smart, trail blazing, uber confident and shockingly entitled. Like I told you, I live with one of you. I have no doubt you will continue with this legacy and you will change the world. And, we need you to, women of Smith College — now more than ever.
 
But in this moment, young ladies and Ada Comstocks, on this most auspicious of days, I want you to take a breath and reflect. Don’t blow through this day, even if you are overwhelmed with family or just a little bit drunk. Take a breath. You have successfully completed a journey at an exceptional institution of learning and attention must be paid. 
 
If I could do so much of my early life over, I would have taken more moments like this to breathe. I would have spent more time focusing on what was right in front of me, instead of recoiling from what is because it didn’t look or feel exactly as I imagined it. I wouldn’t have been forever trying to look around the corner to see “What’s next, what’s next?!”
 
I’d have taken in the beauty of the moment, and greeted everything in my life with a big “YES, AND.” Which leads me to what I want to talk to you about today. And today is all about you. But just a little bit about me.
 
I was born a red-faced screaming malcontent with sparkling blue eyes and chubby cheeks. Along with this extra helping of angst, I felt alien in the world and in my own body, as I was sure I should have been a boy.
 
I spent most of my youth deeply disappointed so much of the time, because nothing ever looked or felt the way I imagined it should. I wanted to ride my bike with my shirt off all summer. I wanted to play little league baseball — I did not want to wear a dress or curl my hair. I was only happy with a clear blue sky, and I lived in Illinois where winter lasts until May and spring usually skips us altogether. If the day loomed cloudy, and it usually did, my poor mother would fear my lashing out at the weather for having let me down. I took everything so personally.
 
I lived my life this way for about 27 years, until my life stepped in with a huge lesson that I was just aware enough to notice.
 
At the time I fancied myself a serious actress; sketch comedy was not on my radar. Out of left field, I was hired for The Second City. For those of you who don’t know, The Second City is a Chicago institution, and the improvisational breeding ground where Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch and Nia Vardolos along with some guys you might recognize, got their start.
 
There I was, a tightly wound young woman obsessed with process, rules, fresh out of grad school, I was a classically trained pain in the ass, frankly, engaging in improvisation: the creative equivalent of jumping off a cliff. An art where there are no rules, save one; it’s called “YES, AND.”
 
“YES AND” is the vital and only rule of improvisation. Never deny your fellow actor. You should be willing and able to accept whatever your fellow improviser throws at you. Use that as your jumping off point and expand it. “Heighten and explore,” as we call it.
 
For instance, if I say to you “Stick ’em up!” and you say “That’s not a gun, that’s your finger!” We’ve got nowhere to go.
 
If I say “What a beautiful day” and you say, “No it’s not, it’s the middle of winter and it’s snowing!” Where do we go?
 
Or I say “Come my darling, it’s time for bed.” And you say, “You’re not my wife and put your pants back on!” Now what do I do with that? The scene is dead in the water and I’m literally caught with my pants down.
 
In order for our scene to go forward, we affirm what the other is saying, which is the “YES” part of our equation, and take it and build, the “AND” part of our equation.
 
In other words, in order for our lives to go forward, in order to engage fully in life, we need to be willing and able to accept what is right in front of us. Whatever it is, the good, the bad, the thrilling, the heartbreaking, every emotion, occurrence, event, person, place or thing, you will experience them all. That’s the “YES” I’m talking about. And the acceptance and embrace of it with all your heart and doing something with it, that’s the “AND.” You accept influence and then you exert influence. You can’t make a cloudy day a sunny day, but can embrace it and decide it’s going to be a good day after all.
 
I learn through contrast. I had one of my first significant experiences of “NO, BUT” when I was a freshman in high school. I auditioned for and was cast as the king in a one-act version of the “Princess and the Pea” story called The Ugly Duckling (beginning a life-long pattern of playing roles originally intended for men). I’d known I wanted to be an actress right out of the chute and I was beside myself with excitement.
 
At the audition, I got huge laughs. At the first rehearsal, I didn’t get the big laughs, I didn’t get the love and I quit. I was devastated and so confused. I had no idea what I had done! My 14-year-old self had no idea how to process it. I had walked up to that which I had ached to do for as long as could remember, and I don’t think I go too far when I say, I came face to face with my destiny, and I walked away. Ya know why? Because it didn’t feel like I imagined it should have felt. I didn’t get the response, i.e. the big laugh, i.e. the big love like I expected. There was now a real possibility of failure and I quit. I was at this time unaware of the concept of “YES AND.” Feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
 
As you travel through life, in these many years ahead, I guarantee that you will come upon countless times in which the last thing you’re gonna want to say is “YES AND.” You will experience loss, heartache, the death of a loved one, you’ll probably have to say goodbye to a lover, you’ll experience rejection, maybe have to deal with a bad diagnosis. You’ll age.
 
The trick isn’t to avoid these times or pretend they’re not happening; you can’t. What you’ll need to do is step up to them courageously and embrace them. Allow these experiences to permeate your being and weave them all into the fabric of your life. They will not only soften you and strengthen you, and you will open your heart to compassion. You will not be powerless in this. If you embrace what is happening, instead of denying it, you can make it your own. If life gives you lemons, grab it by the horns and drive. Yes I just mixed three metaphors, remember I was a “C” student.
 
As a younger person full of anxiety and fear, in desperate pursuit of keys to the kingdom, let me tell you what I did right. After I’d walked away from The Ugly Duckling my freshman year in high school, I would never let fear take me over again (at least in the acting department). Not that I would never feel fear again, I would just plow through it. I grabbed at almost every opportunity, maybe even some I should have left by the wayside.
 
This is not to suggest you should say “YES AND” to every opportunity presented to you.
 
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Jane, what about doing porno?” To which I say I am as surprised as you are that I was never offered that opportunity.
 
But would I have said yes to that? What if life gives us the opportunity to rob a bank, or a way to cheat on our taxes, or say it offers us several hours in a row of life with the Kardashians...hours that we can never get back?
 
To this I say: you can always trust that when you’re coming from your highest self and from your heart, you’ll know when you should say “YES AND,” and when to engage the awesome power of “NO WAY.”
 
Now, this “YES AND” way of life may not be the most natural thing to do for you Smith College Class of 2012 women sitting in front of me today. You’re highly educated. You are so schooled in critical thinking it almost hurts to look at you. The point of your education is to get you to poke holes in theories, to question, to be loath to accept anything at face value. “YES AND” may not roll trippingly off your tongue, and into your life.
 
Your job is to honestly discern for yourself if you’re saying “no” to an opportunity out of fear, or are you simply exercising good judgment.
 
For me, the hardest thing to get past was my need to plan. I thought I had to have a plan or a strategy to get where I wanted to go. From my earliest moments, I knew I wanted to be an actress. I had a driving, anxiety-filled ambition. Growing up in this concrete jungle of a suburb just south of Chicago, I had no idea how I would get there. “Just show me the road map or a manual. Or please, someone drop down from the heavens, take my hand and show me the way.” I was ripe for a cult.
 
I took to rules, regulations and parameters in an effort to feel safe. While I waited for that clear plan of action, I would have at least an illusion of certainty in what has always felt to me to be an unsafe, unpredictable and ever-changing world.
 
It turns out I just had to be willing to take chances, look at what’s right in front of me and greet everything with a big “YES AND,” putting all of my heart into everything I do. My counsel to you, women of Smith College? Let life surprise you. Don’t have a plan. Plans are for wusses. If my life went according to my plan, I would never ever have the life I have today.
 
You are obviously good planners, or you wouldn’t be here. Stop it! Stop it now! Don’t deprive yourself of the exciting journey your life can be when you relinquish the need to have goals and a blueprint.
 
I guess I am assuming you all are as terrified as I was of life, so you know that when you feel sick to your stomach, it’s a good thing! It signals “Opportunity For Big Growth Ahead!” “Somethin’s coming, somethin’ good.” Don’t ignore the nausea. Step up to it. 
At one point, I’d had a lean financial year, and performing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from Annie in my pantyhose had lost its charm. I was stuck creatively and professionally, I was in my late 30s, terrified that the parade was passing me by. The thought of writing a show by myself and for myself began to bubble up to the surface of my consciousness, making me very sick to my stomach.
 
So with a big “YES AND” and chutzpah I didn’t even know I had, I created something where there had once been nothing for the very first time in my life.
 
On my own nickel, I rented a theater for eight consecutive Wednesday nights, wrote monologues for characters I had accessed from the deepest recesses of my psyche, and I created a one-hour romp (which I performed literally stinking of fear, at moments terrified and others, elated).
 
I was never more proud of myself, and it blew wide open the doors of my self-confidence. I emerged, in my humble opinion, an artist and a changed woman. I was now one poised for, and deserving of, the next level. I met Christopher Guest shortly thereafter and was cast in Best in Show. I was 40 years old, and I was finally in the game. I could never have planned this.
 
Other momentous occasions where my dreams were about to come true, and yet I wanted nothing more than to flee the scene:
 
Being offered the opportunity to host the Emmys.
 
Being asked to host “Saturday Night Live.”
 
Being asked to give the Commencement speech at Smith College.
 
When my insides screamed “NO!!” I somehow got my mouth to say “YES AND.”
 
Life is not all about work — and the scariest places to say “Yes And” are also the most rewarding...in a relationship.
 
Whoever you choose, your husband, wife or partner, will make you see more about yourself than any navel gazing in solitude could ever reveal.
 
And if the process isn’t completely horrifying and frustrating, then you’re not doing it right. This will be your most vulnerable place.
 
I put it off until I was almost 50. Your partner will inevitably see your soft underbelly. Shocking behavior you only read about will start to become your own. Your demon will rise up to righteously destroy your relationship in the guise of saving yourself from really seeing yourself. Your partner will say to you with all the tenderness that situation allows, “What the fuck?” You’ll want to break up with yourself.
 
Don’t be afraid of this horrible version of you! Face it, embrace it, coddle it, write it a poem, maybe it needs a hug. Shine the light of day on it. Unclaimed and unacknowledged, it’s got the power and its darkest forces will have you enslaved! Accept its influence, mine it for its gold. Yep, sometimes saying “YES AND” is going to take everything you’ve got. But the payoff, trusting in love, is just incredible.
 
The day after I met my wife, I met my daughter. I don’t really like kids; I’m a dog person. But you couldn’t have designed a better kid for me. She’s witty, wise beyond her years, she has a huge heart, and such patience with the frailties of human nature. I don’t mean to make her sound like the Dalai Lama, but she is exceptional. One day you will meet your child; you may give birth to her, adopt her, she may just wander over or follow you home. We do “meet” them because they are born who they are. We don’t make them, we welcome them. Nothing like knowing they are watching you will make you want to be your best self. Haden was 7 when I met her, she’s now 10 and in eight more years we hope to be dropping her off right here.
 
Children also remind us that life is constantly changing and moving ever forward. It’s true. It doth not stop. I really came to know this as I turned 40 years old. I’m just a late bloomer, folks. The big 4-0 was much anticipated. I resolved to have a party for myself and actually mark it, celebrate it. Say “YES AND” to it. So I turned 40 years old one day. And you know what happened? I turned 41. THEN, I turned 42! And it just kept on going, just like that, the number kept going up! Wait! Wait! Somebody press the pause button! I just got used to being 40! And it goes even faster as you get older. And the world keeps changing. My advice to you; live in the moment. Stay fluid and roll with those changes. Life is just a big extended improvisation. Embrace the ever changing, ever evolving world with the best rule I’ve ever found. Say “YES AND.”
 
Accept the world for what it is, and at the same time, make it your own. I especially want you to make it your own. You are a particular variety of person, Ms. Smithie. You have spent the last four years in an environment that has encouraged you to be not just yourself, but your best self, your strongest self.
 
You will have many opportunities to embrace what the world has for you. I can’t wait to see the ways in which you say “AND.” Remember that Smith Woman entitlement I spoke of earlier? I’m counting on yours to ferociously guard the women’s health care rights our sisters won for us years ago. I know you women of Smith will greet that fight with a big “YES AND,” and any one who tries take them away from you with a huge “NO WAY.”
 
In conclusion, I know you’ll never forget your experience here and that you are a part of an incredible legacy. I’ll be at a party with my wife, and she’ll be meeting one person after another and if she by chance happens upon a fellow Smithie, both of their eyes will light up. They already share a profound connection; they’ve both had a unique and extraordinary experience. Today I become a Smithie! That same piece of paper that my wife and all of you toiled for years to get, I now get for handshake. I am so proud to be one of you.
 
Enjoy this day and thank you so much.

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