Student Edan Armas’ 2019 Baccalaureate speech

Following is the prepared text of the 2019 Baccalaureate student reflection by Edan Armas, a graduating senior majoring in human biology.

When I was 5 years old, my brother accidentally slammed the door on my fingers. As I fell to the floor crying, my mother’s first response was not to grab gauze for the blood or ice for the swelling, but to pick me up, look me in the eyes, and tell me:

“Edan, take three deep breaths. It’s all going to be OK, just breathe.”

At 5 years old, I was livid. What was breathing going to do? And where was this sudden omniscience coming from, Mom?

Eighteen years later, in the kind of retrospective analysis every parent hopes their child will undertake (you’re welcome, Mom), I have come to realize that she was trying to teach me something: that one of the most profound ways to deal with pain is to trust in something bigger than it. Breathe, and trust in the body that will heal. Breathe, and trust in the mother who will guide you. Breathe, and trust that tomorrow will be a different day.

Stanford is many things, but it is not a refuge against pain. Maybe it was crashing in the Circle of Death, or toiling with the Imposter Syndrome. Maybe it was the guilt of being safe at school while the rest of the world suffered, the loneliness of a mental illness, or the acceptance of separating from a partner you loved because it wasn’t going to work after graduation. Maybe it was the fact that sometimes, it’s just really difficult to hold on to joy when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

We all have experienced pain in the last four years. But while Stanford has taught us how to view our hardships and failures as opportunities for growth, today I want to celebrate the moments in which we stopped, took a couple of deep breaths, and trusted in something bigger than our pain. Let us celebrate the nights your friend came over at 3 in the morning to be there for you while you cried, and you realized you are not alone; the essays and p-sets and final projects you completed because you deeply believed in the strength of your own work ethic; the simple sight of a jackrabbit in Meyer Green during golden hour reminding you that you are part of something so much bigger than yourself.

And now we’re here. If we could, I would like all of us to close our eyes. Graduation is a type of pain – of leaving the relationships we built here, of things never being the same. But I would like all of us to take a deep breath, and center ourselves in something we trust in. It can be in your relationships, in the strength of your faith, or in the self you should all be proud to be.

Ready? Let us breathe in, and out.

Class of 2019, may you forever trust in the blossoming of your lives.