I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past year. How do we define success? How do we achieve it? Everyone in this theatre is chasing success, and has at one time or another held the keys to it, only to find that the lock has been changed.
So, what is success? For Rudyard Kipling, success is keeping our heads when all about us are losing theirs. Success is about living life while demonstrating beautiful values. Values such as compassion, patience, fortitude, strength, and courage in the face of difficulties. Success is not a destination. Rather, it is a journey filled with moments of excitement. So, my wonderful cohort – the Class of 2022 – what about our journey so far?
We have lived through a global pandemic, online schooling, floods, drought, heat waves, cold fronts, several wars, two global financial crises, climate change, uncountable superhero movies and what feels like 20 prime ministers.
So go ahead, give yourselves a round of applause for our success in facing these challenges.
But that’s not all. We’ve survived even greater challenges. We’ve survived adventures in the wilderness, trekking to Wentworth park in primary school. We’ve survived James Bond style missions, seeing the code for the renaissance centre written on our time tables for the first time, following signs to a dark, foreboding basement. We’ve trekked through different countries that were the Global Learning Centre classrooms.
So go ahead, make even more noise to celebrate these successes.
But, more seriously, let’s pause to appreciate the vital role that IGS has had in shaping who we are both personally and academically.
We often associate success with stepping out of our comfort zones, facing discomfort. But thank you, to our IGS family, for allowing us to grow and thrive and succeed in the comfort and warmth of IGS. Thank you for not having us make leaps of faith to be seen and heard, but giving us a mike and 10 minutes at assembly to speak our hearts. Thank you for giving us confidence in our art, our poetry, our essays, and in ourselves.
To our teachers who truly embraced us as their own, while pushing us hard and working tirelessly to make sure we were prepared for this next chapter in our lives. The primary teachers whose classrooms felt like home, the high school teachers who felt like friends. Thank you for being the reason we graduate with compassion, empathy and kindness.
To the staff and administrators, to Ms Colnan, Ms Duma and Mr Dennehy, who went above and beyond to ensure that our high school experience wasn’t just memorable, but a journey to appreciate our own individualities, and each others’: Thank you.
Your sage counsel guided us through these crucial years, always reminding us to live for today with an eye on tomorrow. You taught us that the present moment matters, that the present moment was the goal, in the present moment was our success.
My cohort thanks you from the bottom of our hearts.
If you believe Mark Twain, you know that “to succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” Luckily, my cohort and I have been blessed with both.
For us, success has meant different things at different times in our lives. We cheered each other on in Year 3 after performing at lunch time music concerts, then we smiled and screamed at our first ArtsFest dances in Year 7, then applauded each other as we walked out of our final HSC exams. Throughout our time at IGS, while our definitions of success were quickly changing, what never changed were our smiles, our cheers and our support for each other.
As I’ve grown, I have seen more and more that success looks different for everyone at different stages of life. It is that realisation that has made it clear that it is never about personal achievement. Success has always been about others. It’s about compassion. Relationships. Values. Never losing sight of what really matters. And just getting up every day and trying to be better than yesterday.
IGS not only fostered my passion for education but moulded me into who I am today. A better person — or, so, I’d like to think. IGS is family. From my very first day in preschool, to this, my last – the bittersweet feeling that others experienced at the end of holidays, never seemed to weigh heavy on my chest. Neither did the dull feelings they expressed on Sunday evenings or on Monday mornings. I never understood why some people didn’t want to get back to school after a break. Instead, I felt a flutter of excitement and joy. I was returning to my second family.
In the words of Michael J Fox, “family is not an important thing. It is everything.” And yes – Dad – I know who he is. But to my fellow students, you can Google him.
My cohort, as we move on to university, to our first job, our first love or to somewhere we never thought we’d end up, remember, success is what we make it.
For me, religion, culture, and family are what matter most. As I move through life, I hope to empower people from all walks of life. I hope to live a life of kindness, laughter, and compassion. I hope that I can tune out negativity and step out of my comfort zone.
Like in Year 4, when I wore my hijab to school for the first time. Acutely aware that I would be the only one wearing hijab, during a time when Islamophobia seemed to be the norm. It took courage. The same courage so many of you have shown when you’ve stood for justice, attended protests, and accepted yourself in spite of what others may think.
Courage, is another form of success. And often, we’re surprised with the amount of love, respect, and acceptance we’re shown once we courageously show the world who we are. That was the lesson I learned here, at IGS, on that warm day in January when I covered my head with an IGS-green scarf and walked through the front gates.
IGS taught me that treating others with dignity is an attitude that starts with our mentors, in this case, parents, teachers, and even each other. An attitude that I was inspired to embrace and reciprocate, so that some of the love I felt from all of you that first day I wore hijab transferred onto others. An attitude that arguably flows through IGS like in no other school. And an attitude that shows us, that making an impact matters — big or small. And all of us can make an impact.
So, whether working on your PhD, directing a horror movie, playing violin at the Opera House, training for a marathon, raising a family, remember that life is about the small stuff. The sometimes mundane, small victories that go unnoticed. The little smiles, the laughs, the happy memories. Be open, start conversations, never stop learning, never question yourself. And never let anyone define success for you.
And finally, I would like to share something very personal with you. In my religion, it isn’t adequate to just be a believer or a leader, but to strive towards being what’s called a mo’min, a classical Arabic word that can be loosely translated as ‘one who provides security to others, in faith, in friendship, and in times of need’. I can therefore, authentically say that at several points in the last 14 years, IGS has been my religion, as much as Islam.
And so, as we, Class of 2022, move onto the next chapter in our lives, I believe that each of us agree that it is simply not adequate for us to look back on our time at IGS as something in our past. Having benefited from its embrace, it is our duty to strive, as life-long ambassadors for IGS, to live and spread the incredible values of IGS, and to ensure that all our community members experience some of the beauty that we have experienced here. That is the true measure of our success.
To our parents, you have succeeded. Here we are; not just ticking a box on our way to somewhere better, but happy, thriving, confident, and full of wonderful qualities you instilled in us. Your priority was our happiness and we have years of happiness, joy and laughter at IGS to look back on. To my Mum and Dad, to my grandparents who are probably on Facetime, to my sister, to my best friend Sofia, thank you for being the reason for my happiness.
To IGS, thank you for being my home for the last 15 years, and instilling in me not just a love for learning, but passion and empathy and love. Thank you for the greatest privilege of being your head girl, and Madiba, thank you for being alongside me the whole way.
And finally, a thought on the future of the Class of 2022. We are a mighty generation facing supernova size challenges. When we were born, Pluto was a planet (poor Pluto).
During our schooling, a car was launched into space. As we graduate, the Earth needs our help. No one knows what will happen by the time we retire. But we know this much, the sky isn’t our limit. Our limit is of our own making. And in our own unique ways we will always be successful. Why, you might ask? Because IGS would have it no other way.