This past fall, I had the honour of delivering the following valedictorian's speech on behalf of my fellow IHN graduates:
"Good morning friends, family, IHN faculty and my fellow graduates. I cannot tell you what an incredible honor it is to be up here representing my class and on behalf of all the graduates here today, I’d like to thank you all for being here and sharing this very special occasion with us.
There is a Mahatma Gandhi remark that has been distilled into a popular quote: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” While there are many interpretations about what this quote means, the interpretation I’d like to offer you today is the idea that one person, alone, can’t change anything; rather, real change is affected only by great numbers of people dedicated to working together with diligence and persistence. When I think of my graduating class, I think of this quote. I think about the group of us, committing to ourselves and to each other, to show up week after week with a common intention to educate ourselves, so that we may in turn educate others. We are here today, crossing the stage and receiving our certificates, because we started with ourselves. For me personally, my journey of health and wellness led me to IHN with the intention of healing my relationships with my body, food and exercise, and I am leaving with the intention of sharing what I have learned with others. I wouldn’t be standing here today with this intention, if it weren’t for the community I found at IHN.
So, for our friends and family out there who have been patiently listening to us over the last couple of years spew out, no doubt with unabashed vigor, the wealth of knowledge that IHN has equipped us with, you might still be wondering, what’s the deal with holistic nutrition, anyway? I know for me, the reaction I often get when I say I a holistic nutritionist is “Oh well I don’t want to tell you what I eat then!” It’s not just about what to eat and what not to eat - the media does a fine job of informing (slash scaring) us about that and personally a lot of times I think it creates more confusion than good. A holistic nutritionist is a critical thinker and researcher and approaches healing with a focus on improving the individual’s connection between their body and their mind. Sure the foods you are choosing to eat is a big part of it – and it’s also about what you’re feeding your mind and your soul. We believe food is medicine, and we also believe that a healthy mind and cultivating spirituality is also medicine. We don’t necessarily believe that conventional medicine is failing society; we believe that true healing comes from a diverse and all-rounded approach. There is a time and place, for all. And yes, it’s true, a holistic nutritionist may suggest eliminating certain foods from your diet and possibly encourage you to eat more kale if he or she feels that what you’re eating or not eating is contributing to your symptoms – and we will also encourage you to look at the other areas in your life: your relationships, your job, your stress level, your spirituality. We educate with the intention of empowering you to make choices that promote physical, mental and spiritual healing. It’s individual, and it’s a journey.
Why IHN? Two and a half years ago when I began researching the programs offered in Vancouver, I found myself, in my Type A fashion, making a spreadsheet (with multiple columns, color coded, you get the picture) comparing IHN with another popular school in Vancouver. And, as obnoxiously Type A as that may sound, it made it a no-brainer decision that IHN was the place for me. The specific courses offered, the faculty, the testimonials from alumni, quickly made it the front running institution. The faculty at IHN is really what makes it. The passion and dedication these professionals have for their chosen fields is intoxicating. I challenge any of you to do a workshop with Dr. Marisa Marciano in herbal medicine and NOT fall in love with herbs because of it. Impossible. Starting every one of Vanessa Peacock’s classes with a dance party followed by some of the finest teachings in critical thinking that I will carry with me always. Cynthia Ganatra made bio-chem fun, Dr. Jason Marr willingly sharing his knowledge with us and we never had to book an appointment or pay him a dime! Dr. Matt for your upbeat energy and enthusiasm (does he ever have a bad day?) and Socratic teaching methods and your mid-class stretch breaks, and Nikoo’s passion for nutrition and the environment was such that by the end of that course I think we all secretly not so secretly wanted to wear burlap, pitch a tent in our backyards and eat grass. And the administrative faculty: Shayna, Maureen, Leah, Julia, Kim, Tami and Nicole who were always available to answer our questions. It is clear to me that the number one priority of the faculty at IHN was setting each and every one of us up for success.
Not only does IHN attract an extraordinary faculty, it attracts incredibly inspiring students. Even during the most stressful times, the passion was never lost. We never stopped inspiring one another, and often had a lot of fun doing it. And what a gift it has been to witness all of our journeys. It wasn’t just about the books, the assignments and the exams. It was about looking at our own spiritual, mental and physical health. It was about personal transformation and change and letting go. And I just really want to acknowledge that, because none of it was easy or without obstacles, and yet we persevered. Some of us quit jobs, started businesses. Some of us came in with a clear vision of what we wanted our futures to look like, some of us didn’t and figured it out along the way, and some of us are still figuring it out. Now that we’re “finished”, and venturing off on our paths – I suspect there might be some feelings of uncertainty, vulnerability, anxiety, and fear. So to my fellow classmates, during these times, I invite you to lean into those feelings, and see what they might be able to teach you about your soul. If it’s fear you feel, may it teach you courage. If it’s uncertainty you feel, may it teach you about trust. Take yourselves back to the four walls of the classrooms we shared over the last two years and remember the love and support you felt. It couldn’t have existed without you and therefore will exist in you, always, outside of those four walls. I want to thank each and every one of you not only for giving me the honor of representing our class today, but also for holding space for me and for one another over the last two years: for the laughter, the tears, the acceptance, and the encouragement.
And last, but not at all least, to our friends and family for your undying patience and support, and never getting angry (at least not to our faces) for saying “sorry I can’t, I have to study”. There is no way we would be here today without you.
Apparently it’s tradition to end valedictorian speeches with a Dr. Seuss quote, so here goes… “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile, because it happened.” I wish you so much love and light from the bottom of my heart. Go out there and be you. It’s exactly what the universe and our planet needs. You are the change. Thank you."