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Something Real Moving 
by Tyler Rivenbark 

happygrads4When I was told that I was given this honor I was incredibly excited, but then when I found out that I was going to have to sit on stage in front of everybody and then give a speech, I was incredibly nervous and still am.  And then it occurred to me, "I'm gonna be giving a speech in front of a bunch of English majors." That adds a little more pressure to things.  We're all writers and critics. People might be inclined to expect some type of great speech. Something with a vast vocabulary and a bunch of metaphors -- maybe imagery and deep meaning in every line -- something real moving.  But don't. I tís probably not gonna' happen. It'd be one thing if we were Hospitality Management majors or Elementary Education majors.  There usually aren't any predisposed ideas about an Elementary Ed. major's speech.  But we're not.

We're all here today because, probably against the better judgment of our parents, we're English majors -- a degree that there really isn't any set field to go in to, which kind of gives us the freedom to go into whatever field we want to.  Of course, there's always education and for the past four years I've had to answer "No" when asked if I was gonna be a teacher.  I was actually never a big fan of English class growing up, especially not high school.  In fact, I slept through most classes, even non-English ones.  But I've always loved writing. Ever since I was a kid I've written.  It might not have been any thing worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, but for some reason I kept doing it.  There was something about stringing words together to create stories about the mundane and fantastic alike that was intriguing.  It just felt like something I had to do.  And it was the only thing I was really any good at.

TylerBut I never thought of English as an actual major when it came to going to College.  I always viewed English as having to do solely with grammar or things along those lines.  And that wasn't what I wanted to do.  I hated grammar, but then I discovered that there were these things called creative writing courses, and that changed everything.  I immediately declared my major as English and took all the creative writing courses that I possibly could.  I only wish there were more offered.

But as I made my way through all those classes, I was maybe given something even more special than the chance to write.  I was introduced to incredible professors and other aspiring writers who taught me more than I thought I'd ever learn about the world of writing.  We developed working relationships, but more importantly we developed friendships.  We all worked on an equal field, both professors and students alike, which made for an incredible experience and a wonderful environment to create art in.  And also, if you've never been to a creative writing after party then youíve missed out.

Throughout the time I've spent here at ECU, though sadly it was only two years; I've had some of the best times of my life.  I've met truly amazing people, both professors and students.  I've developed great friendships that I hope will last the rest of my life.  I've played music along side the most innovative musicians inside some of the best venues.  I've been given the chance to study abroad, which is a whole other speech in itself.  I've grown as a writer.  But I suppose, most importantly, over the past two years I've prepared myself for what comes next.

happygrads6With the help of others, who have been so giving of their time, I have put myself in a position for more life changing experiences.  It has come to the point now where we must decide what those experiences are.  For me, it's moving to New York City where I know absolutely no one and Ií'm scared to death.  But if I've learned one thing from my time here, it's that you have to take those dare-to-be-great chances, otherwise what's the point.  So whatever it is that you do after today, whatever decision you make, make sure it scares the hell out of you.  Because that's when great things happen -- when the hair on the back of your neck stands up or when you get that empty feeling in the pit of your stomach.  So just do what scares you the most.

Lastly, I just want to thank my parents and my brother for always being there for me even when in the back of their minds they were probably hoping I'd maybe do something different and choose a more secure career path.  Thank you for always believing in me when I maybe didn't believe in myself.  You guys are nothing but supportive of all of my decisions, despite what they may be, and for that I am forever grateful. Nothing that I do in my life, whatever it might be -- hopefully good though -- would be possible if it weren't for you.  I love you, guys.

And that's all I have to say. Thank you so much for listening to me and good luck with whatever you decide to do.  I'm sure itíll be great.  And also, the English Department is hands down the best department.  Thank you.


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