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Ashley SinksAshley Sinks, a communication major, spoke to her peers and their guests during the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s midyear commencement ceremony Dec. 14.

Here is a transcript of her speech:

“A Rubik’s Cube – just a toy? Or… graduates, is this little cube a perfect metaphor for the college journey that is now behind us and the future that lies ahead? The inventor of this frustrating little gadget, Erno Rubik said, “we turn the cube and it twists and changes us”. With every new choice we find ourselves in a different scenario. Graduation day commemorates what we’ve been through and what we will go through in the future. Our paths have not been easy. These twists and turns have been and will continue to be inevitable.

“Graduates….. think back to that first day we stepped on campus. The gut-wrenching knot in your stomach, the lanyard around your neck, the uneasy feeling of sleeping next to a complete stranger. Or that first day of class when you secretly hoped you were in the right building, at the right time, in the right room. Although some graduates might not want to admit that they were scared in those first days and weeks of college, I will be the first to say that after bidding my parents farewell… I was terrified. Like this far-from solved Rubik’s cube as first year students we were forced to start over while having mixed emotions, confusion and unsure of our next move. We were being forced to start over. But just like this Rubik’s cube, it is impossible for me to get to the next stage of my life without completing the blocks in front of me first.

“The problem with this perplexing puzzle relates a lot to the challenges in our journeys. Clarity is a hard thing to find. Aligning the rows of the cube takes determination, and often some advice and support from others. In our college journeys, from anxiety to adventure, we have all needed such support in our own twists and turns. What is it that keeps the cube together? The toy keeps its form because all the blocks work together, holding it up. For each of us graduates – family, friends – you have made the difference. To those in the audience sharing this celebration with us, we graduates say thank you – thank you for being present through all the twists and turns. Thank you for backing us up. Thank you for believing in us. Thank you for inspiring us in times when we were sure we would fail.

“Mr. Rubik was told that his toy wouldn’t be good enough. Most of us graduates have faced similar struggles – financial, emotional, academic and more. Veterans, single parents – Congratulations. Some of us have faced the deaths or serious illnesses of loved ones along the way and have persevered – Congratulations. Others have faced learning disabilities, or financial challenges causing us to step out and work and then step back in – Congratulations. The list of challenges is long – yet despite obstacles, we each found a way to make it work. Mr. Rubik had many struggles as well, but with persistence and dedication he finally found a local business that was willing to sell this toy. Sales soared. The Rubik’s cube confused toddlers, teenagers and mathematicians – and many of us! Did you know that this puzzle has one correct alignment and 43 quintillion wrong ones?! Now, I admit that math is not my strongest subject, but even I know those odds are pretty tough to beat. Rubik beat his odds and we have beat the odds stacked against us as we pushed toward this graduation today (show one side complete). I once heard a pretty great quote. It reads, “Being afraid is okay. But if you don’t work through that fear you might miss out on some pretty great things.” Today here we sit. And boy, am I glad I pushed through that initial fear.

“Part of that push came during sophomore and junior year. After getting over the initial homesickness and confusion, we started to put our own pieces of the puzzle together better. We had made progress. Some wrong moves? Of course. But we found a way. Professors started to know us by name and bonds were made with other students – students who had once been strangers. A few blue squares started to line up, then maybe a few more green ones. The pieces of our college career started to fit! With a few semesters under our belts it was time to make even bigger decisions. Majors, minors, internships, studying abroad, and, of course, job fairs… as we navigated these anxiety-provoking major twists and turns, our freshman year jitters seemed silly.

“Toward the end of the puzzle called college, we continued to push through our challenges despite the all-nighters, the hours in Polk death staring anyone on the third floor who was breathing too loudly and trying to pretend we were not out of breath once reaching the fourth floor of any academic hall on campus. We started to feel like we were actually ready and had conquered what we had come here to do. And now – we look ahead to what is next – equipped by the challenges we have just surmounted. Much like our journey through college, this Rubik’s cube continues to get more challenging as we get closer to solving the puzzle. The puzzle is built of 26 pieces put together so cleverly that sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better. As we move forward from this day of celebration, chances are us graduates are going to have to take a few wrong turns in order to get to our destination. This evolution of the beautiful design may happen more slowly than we wish, one turn of the cube at a time. As we move forward, we will be forced to extend our boundaries and once again define who we are. There will be new cities and new expectations. Every day will hold new twists and turns. We are in charge of making the moves. We determine the path to success. We survived, we triumphed, and we mastered the Rubiks cube of college. The blocks may get bigger but the fundamentals are just the same. Work hard, push through, and let’s continue to chase our dreams. And don’t forget gratitude for those that support and advise and cheer us through our twists and turns. If we want to go places we have never been, we need to make moves we have never tried before. You will find your place in the world just as you did here at UW Oshkosh. We put the pieces together one block at a time. Here’s to the next challenge, the next puzzle. Congratulations class of 2013. The world is waiting.”

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