I get a little misty and choked up every time I attend a Smith College commencement as an alum, and not just because I'm getting old enough to be nostalgic about the ol' undergrad days. As our dear Rachel Berry likes to remind us, being part of something special makes you special; and being a part of this awesome community of fiercely intelligent women with a history of taking the world by storm is something that Jane Lynch and I both appreciate oh so deeply.
“I know all about Smith women, because I married one,” Jane proudly informed the cheering crowd, as we basked under a brilliant cloudless sky yesterday morning in Northampton, Massachusetts, with overexcited students hanging out the windows of every building with a view of the stage. Her love for the college, and for women's community, practically vibrated off her as she spoke, assuring the graduating class that they've already accomplished so much more than she ever did at this age—because when she graduated from college, she forgot to put a stamp or a return address on her registration envelope, so she went to her graduation ceremony not even knowing whether or not her name would actually be called. She assures the graduates that she knows they'd never be so scattered and unfocused, but also encouraged us all to take a breath and reflect, be here now to enjoy the moment; don't just blow through it because your family's here making demands on your time. Or because you're maybe a little bit drunk right now.
She told stories of how anxiety-ridden her youth was due to her own overblown expectations of life, and other bits of memoir you're probably already familiar with if you've read her book, Happy Accidents. Most importantly, she shared the singularly critical rule of her professional live as an improv comedian, one that carries equal value off the stage: yes, and. Don't say no to what's right in front of you, even if it's not the perfect thing you thought you wanted; because “if you can embrace what's happening instead of denying it, you can make it your own.”
Throughout her sage words of wisdom, she continually stopped to directly address the graduates loudly by their full title—“You, the Smith College class of 2012!” causing the same kind of bedlam usually associated with shouting Haman! at a Purimshpiel. She begged us not to get too attached to our plans (“plans are for wusses!”), and to be willing to take chances; say no when you want to say no, but make sure it's not out of fear. She actually said “what the fuck” on stage in front of all the dignitaries and the sweet old ladies in their pearls, as if we didn't already adore her enough. In the end, she left the graduates with the parting advice to “live in the moment. Stay fluid and roll with those changes. Life is just a big extended improvisation. Embrace the ever changing, ever evolving world with the best rule I’ve ever found. Say “YES AND.” Personally, I don't think Sue Sylvester could've said it any better.