Hello class of 2017, technically, even though you’re graduating after the fall semester for some reason, and welcome.
I’m honored to be here today to speak to a group of young men and women with so much potential, and who have already accomplished so much. I remember when I was just like you: young, enthusiastic and eager for an opportunity.
As some of you may know, it took me a long time to get that opportunity. For years I struggled through the daily grind, working so hard yet feeling as though I wasn’t making any progress. I’m not ashamed to tell you that there were times — days, weeks, even years — when I felt hopeless. When I felt certain that things would never work out for me, that I was doomed to forever be a nameless, faceless cog in the corporate machine.
But I made it through those hard times, and I stand here before you today a successful, powerful woman at the forefront of her industry. I hope it isn’t boastful for me to say that I’ve become I’m the kind of person you all aspire to be one day.
So what advice can I offer to you young, fervent minds? Most secrets to success aren’t secret. They are, in fact, things you’ve heard a million times before: work hard, persevere, be kind, never give up. But you hear that advice repeated so often because it works.
So what can tell you that you may not have heard elsewhere? There is one thing, the only thing that always worked for me when nothing else it did. I’m here today to tell you that the secret to success is crying in spin class two to three times a week for at least four years. If there’s one thing that got me where I am today, it was retreating into a dark, loud room every Sunday and Friday and sometimes Wednesday, getting on an exercise bike, and crying my goddamn heart out.
I’d walk in there just like everyone else, and just like everyone else, the second the lights went down and the music went up, I’d let the floodgates open. The tears would flow and the sobs would heave out of my body unresisted, each new song making me more and more emotional. Sure, there were times when I couldn’t even breath, when I was standing up, pedaling furiously, hyperventilating and so lightheaded I thought I’d fall off the bike, which I did, but only once.
I understand that what worked for me might not work for everyone. That each person, like each spin class, is different. Maybe you’d prefer to cry quietly in yoga class, or to howl underwater in a pool while swimming laps. Everybody needs to find what works for them, but when I was like you — overeducated and underemployed, broke and desperate — the only thing that kept me going was pedaling my heart out and weeping to Janet Jackson EDM remixes while riding a stationary bike in a hot, crowded room. I devoted myself to that practice for years, and it’s what got me where I am today.
You may be wondering: do I still go to spin class? Yes, religiously. Do I still cry? Occasionally. Now that I’m a happy, successful, satisfied woman — both career-wise and sexually — I don’t need to cry in spin class like I used to. But once in a while, I go in there and I weep just to remind myself where I come from. To remind myself that not so long ago, I was a total nobody, just like all of you. To remind myself that things can change — as long as you regularly cry in a public safe space while exercising.
So, young men and women, go forth to spin class — real spin class, not Soul Cycle or any of that $35 a session bullshit — and weep! And one day, if you cry really hard, you might be standing in my spin shoes, climbing to the top of the corporate ladder in position three.
Thank you and good luck.