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Convocation speech

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David Gessner 1 David Gessner Convocation Speech I am a creative writing professor and one of the clichés of my profession is to tell people to avoid clichés. A cliché, you may remember from high school, is something people tend to say a lot in certain circumstances. Something people say a lot in this certain circumstance--convocation--is “follow your passion.” Another thing people sometimes do when they are standing up here, perhaps to the point of cliché, is to quote a particular line in a particular poem by a particular New England poet named Robert Frost. In “Two Tramps in Mud Time” Frost writes: “My 2 object in living is to unite/ my avocation with vocation.” He means uniting your hobby with your job, your love with your profession, your heart with your wallet. People listened to this advice a lot during the sixties, long before you were born, though people listen less often now, understandably given the tough times. But I would like to pause here and say a word for this yoking of love and work, passion and paycheck. That is I would like to take the old cliché and shake it out and beat it with a broom, knocking the dust off. The only way I know how to do this is to turn to the experience I know best, my own. I decided to become a writer when I was about your age, and for many years after that I paid for that decision. The world, it turned out, didn’t put much stock in my idealistic dreams. For a decade or so I worked as a carpenter, bookstore clerk, substitute teacher and counselor at a homeless shelter while sneaking in my writing either late at night or early in the morning. That is the thing about trying to unite your avocation and vocation. It does not often come quickly and it rarely comes 3 easily. But what I believe, and what I believed even during those hard years, is that it is a joy to do what you love. There is no Hollywood

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