Nova Browning Rutherford

Nova Browning Rutherford, Keynote Speaker, Personal Development Coach, and former young person solidified the lessons learned in O-week sessions earlier in the day.


As she so wisely put it, today, and this year, you are planting a seed; there are low expectations for seeds. But not none. They are watched over, cared for, loved, and nourished.

But there are also expectations that that seed will become something more. Those who watch, care, love, and nourish that seed want to see it succeed (suc-seed?). They want it to become something bigger and better. And the seed wants that for itself as well. The seed can’t stay a seed forever, so it needs to work to better itself and push itself out of its comfort zone of soil and earth, into the sunshine where it can be everything it’s supposed to be and more.

First year of university is just like that. You don’t know anything about this new experience. You are used to having parents or guardians around to put meals in front of you (even if they make you eat all your vegetables), make sure you don’t drink (or don’t drink too much if your parents are especially liberal), book your doctors appointments, drive you to soccer practice, give you a curfew, and a thousand other things you don’t even realize are happening. Then all of a sudden you’re dropped off at university and expected to figure everything out for yourself. Sure, there are tons of resources available to help you out, but you still need to reach out on your own, and put the effort in to better your own life. That little idea of planting a seed quickly seems just as overwhelming as planting an entire garden.

Like Nova said, you’re “supposed to be falling down and fucking up.” It’s okay to stay up too late, have one too many adult beverages, and regret it the next morning. It’s okay to sleep through class because your 8:15 came sooner than expected. It’s okay to drop a class and make up the credits later. It’s okay to not be friends forever with someone you met in frosh week. Trust the process. Seeds don’t grow without effort. You will not grow without effort.

The thing about seeds though, is that they’re incredible resilient. You can forget to water it for a week, leave it by the open window in winter (oops), or accidentally pour coffee on it as you walk out the door (not that I’d know…) and somehow it still manages to break the surface and turn into a bud. Then, slowly, over weeks, months, and years, the bud will become a stalk, at which point you will be able to help other struggling seeds. Then that stalk, over more time, can become a flower– beautiful and open, ready to show the world what it’s got.

Be your true self. Show the world what you’ve got. Be the flower you’re supposed to be. Because if you try to be a different kind of flower, it won’t be as beautiful.

And perhaps the most important thing to remember, as highlighted by the wonderful Nova Browning Rutherford, is this:

You’re an adult now. Other adults don’t have time to put it together for you. Start to help yourself.

As a graduate, I can honestly say this is some of the best advice a first year can be given. If you want to be treated like an adult, then act like an adult. Think critically about what’s going on around you. Question what you don’t understand. Be engaged in the conversations you’re having.

And be the best darn seed you can be, until you’re ready to be a flower.


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