As I’ve thought back on the past four years and wondered what life lessons I learned, the lesson that stands out the most to me is simple yet profound. I found this quote by an Anonymous source I felt fit perfectly, it goes like this, in life “Sometimes you need motivation, sometimes you just need carbs” and a nap.

By Annika Edwards, Valedictorian
College of Mines & Earth Sciences Convocation
11 April 2022

I added that last part about naps. Over the past four years we’ve all been through typical and atypical experiences. Of course, there’s the typical freshman 15 that we all lost from walking up and down hills motivated to make it to class on time, or the freshman 15 we all gained from a healthy diet of pizza and ramen every week. Now, I don’t have a degree in mathematics nor a degree in health sciences but to me those two seem to cancel each other out. We all experienced the atypical covid years where self-motivation became essential more than anyone could have ever imagined, and the carb intake skyrocketed. We experienced the usual snow days and the unusual earthquakes that cancelled classes and saved us from our lack of motivation to complete homework or study for that day’s tests and provided extra time to sneak in another nap. 

What motivates us

Although naps, carbs, and motivation — not necessarily in that order — are important to achieving goals, more is required to be successful. We’ve just reflected on some of our experiences with motivation, but we didn’t talk about what is motivating us. As freshmen our motivation to get to class on time may have been to get good grades or to try to start off our college careers strong. Motivation to continue to work through school while being forced to stay home and take classes online may have been the money invested in tuition for that semester, to continue to progress in our degree programs or to simply have something to do while stuck at home.

Fortunately for us there are no grades in industry and the tests are the projects we spend our time on. Unfortunately, the grades and the tests were motivators. As we start, or continue our careers, we need to set goals and have dreams both work related and personal to keep us motivated. Reba McEntire stated, “to succeed in life you must have three things, a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.” Discover your motivator a.k.a. wishbone. 

Motivators often lead to action which brings us to our next bone, the backbone. The backbone is often used as a symbol of strong character, which is necessary to be successful, but today I would like to broaden the meaning of having a backbone. As both scientists and engineers, we all took math, chemistry, and physics. Often these were classes that we were the least excited about but somehow took all of our time. The work we put into these classes built the foundation needed to continue our education in each of our degree programs. We have worked hard, countless hours to get where we are today; the same is true to get to where we want to go, to achieve our goals. Today, right now, to have a backbone means to put in the honest work.

Build your backbone. 

Light bulbs

To introduce the final bone to a successful life I would like to share a joke:

How many PhD candidates do you need to change a single light bulb?

You actually only need one, but it may take more than four years.

Some of you find these kinds of jokes funny, and some of you don’t. We all have a different sense of humor, but be sure not to lose your funny bone along the way. Think back on the four plus years it has taken for you to get here. The things I remember the most are the late nights and hard work because they were truly scary, but I also remember the fun times I had laughing and joking with my classmates. I know it’s the same for you. Being able to laugh and have a good time is what makes life enjoyable. Don’t let yourself become the old person in the room who regrets taking life too seriously and spending too much time at work. 

To conclude my speech, I would like to take a minute to say thank you. Thank you to the partners, spouses and significant others who dealt with the countless hours and late nights we spent away from you working on homework and projects in the computer labs. Thank you to the parents and family who have supported us through our journey. Thank you to the advisors, industry professionals, and other supporters of our students’ groups who helped us raise money and gain valuable experiences. Thank you to the professors for passing on your knowledge and wisdom related and unrelated to school. Thank you to the classmates who became lifelong friends.

As we start this new chapter in our lives, let’s not forget that success is what you make it: discover your wishbone, build your backbone and never lose your funny bones.

To the College of Mines and Earth Sciences Class of 2022, ∫ We did it!