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Home > News and Events > Speech Day 2017: Vanessa Kisuule’s ‘Li...

Speech Day 2017: Vanessa Kisuule’s ‘Life List’

12 Sep 17

The Life List

by Vanessa Kisuule

There are so many ways to think about how you can be a human. A safe human, an honest human, a happy human. I have my way and you all have yours. As a writer and storyteller, I believe writing things down gives us the power to kick start our passions and thoughts into something physical. They go from shapeless thoughts in your head to words on a physical piece of paper. Not saying that this means that all you write will magically come true, but you are taking the first step to taking your thoughts from just ideas to reality.

But what might be more useful than:
“Became a millionaire”
“Move to Dubai”
“Get in to Oxford”
Or “became the next J K Rowling”

is to think about the kind of person you want to be. To think not what job you want, but how you want to feel in the things you choose to do with your day. Not what you want your body to look like, but what you want it to be capable of. Think about not how many likes you get on a tweet or a status, but what impact you’d like your words to have. So write lists. Just like you would if you were going shopping for food. But this is a life list. Here’s mine. I hope you like it.

I wrote you guys a list. A list of things I’d go back and tell myself at school if I could. I hope it inspires you to write your own list of things to help kick start the next phase of your life. Because as much as there’s so much around you that can spark an idea or a purpose, you also need to work out what you stand for in life and who you’d like to be. I can’t tell you, your parents can’t tell you, your teachers can’t tell you. We are mere guests in the full, glittering movie of your life. You are the star, the focus, the one in the driver’s seat. So yes, write yourself a list. Put whatever you like on it, it’s your list after all.

1. Reserve the right to be wrong at all times.

2. Do not seek to be the best. Seek to love it the most.

3. If it fills the barrel of your belly with laughter, steeps the sponge of your brain in new challenges, or sets the steel of determination in to your shoulder, put a bookmark in it. You’ll need it at some point.

4. Are you scared? Don’t worry, so is everyone else.

5. There’s more than one way to be smart. There’s more than one way to be useful. There’s more than one way to succeed. There’s more than one way to be a failure.

6. Your failures are glorious. Hang them in gold frames in pride of place right next to your biggest achievements.

7. Teachers are everywhere, not just in the classrooms. Everyone has at least one gritty pearl of wisdom sat underneath the shore of their tongue. Teachers are everywhere, you stare at one every day when you get ready in the mirror.

8. Do not engage in conversations that make your skin feel tight and your heart wary. Do not sit down to lunch with girls who wish to lick at the carcass of your inner demons. Do not laugh at jokes plucked from the rotten fruit of malevolence and ignorance. Do not be seduced into saying things your tongue will never forgive you for. Make your vague excuses and walk away.

9. I know it’s hard sometimes. I know it’s hard sometimes.

10. The outsiders, the freaks, the geeks, the losers, the ones that don’t quite fit are often the ones with the key to new and revolutionary ideas.

11. If you feel alone, you’re not. You’re a member of one of the most over-subscribed clubs in the world.

12. Are you excited? Good. Things are about to get interesting.

13. Humble yourself…

14. There is no greater filter than your own unique perspective. Do you like the picture? Then post it. Any other likes are a bonus, not a measure of your importance, your beauty or your fundamental value. Do you like that person? Don’t just like their picture – send them a message. Arrange to hang out. Show them they mean more than a blue thumb.

15. You really do mean more than a blue thumb or a red heart.

16. Is your heart still beating? Excellent. You have all the equipment required to do life.

17. School feels like your whole world because up til now it has been. But soon enough it will be a story told by you at dinner parties. Make sure it’s a good story, with some funny bits thrown in.

18. Being grown up is tough. You have to pay bills and taxes and have responsibility and stuff. I have nothing uplifting to add to that. It’s pretty rubbish.

19. If you can’t make money from doing what you love, see if what makes you money can facilitate what you love.

20. Love is not just about romance. Love is the gut of resilience that makes you say ‘yes’ to life even when you’re tired, even when you’re sad, even when the papers speak every shade of doom.

21. If we can survive World War II, Margaret Thatcher, the British Empire and the mullet, then we can get our heads together and crack this mess of a world we are in right now.

22. Treat yourself like your best mate. If you wouldn’t say it to your best mate, don’t say it to yourself.

23. We are all, for the most part, and in the grand soaring sweep of things, inconsequential. This fact will either weigh you down or make you airborne.

Are you ready? Of course you’re not. Best jump anyway. The water’s fine.

Vanessa Kisuule
Woodbridge School Speech Day
9 September 2017

Vanessa’s most recent collection of poems, Joyriding The Storm, is available to buy through the link below:




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