The College Awards Evening's Incredible Guest Speaker

November 28, 2022

Recently we held our College Awards evening, Maryam Aboobaker was our wonderful guest speaker, her speech was so incredible and heartfelt by the learners that we felt it had to be shared.

If you do not know Maryam she is a dynamic mother, woman and writer who has achieved so much in all these spaces by always being authentic and courageous. She addressed the learners with her brilliant wit and authenticity, and encouraged them to seek their own space in life and defy all labels by being who they want to be and always trying to stand out.

“Good Evening Everyone,

You know they say nervousness and excitement comes from the same part of the brain, so can I just say how excited I am to be here tonight! In fact, I’m so excited that I need a minute for my organs to understand this is not a heart attack and I am here out of choice.

When Tracy asked me about being the speaker tonight, I was quite surprised and when I told my children that I would be doing this, they were equally surprised. Offended I asked, Well, why not me? Maybe that was my first mistake. The one said, “well usually it's like someone who has done something big or has had a great achievement in conservation. I should have reminded him that his very existence and continued existence, can be considered a major achievement. The other one asked “isn’t the guest speaker usually a celebrity?” So I'd just like to thank the Aboobaker boys for their vote of confidence.

Before I address the learners of 2022, I would like to take a moment and acknowledge you, the parents and teachers of Southern Cross Schools. Congratulations - 13 or more years of schooling and you made it! As you marvel at your child's accomplishments, you may wonder where the years have gone. It seems that not long ago, they were starting pre-school. The years between pre-school and matric, however, must have seemed like an eternity to the learners and for some parents too, but looking back, you remember it all. You remember the tears at pre-school drop off, both your own and theirs, you dealt with little bumps and bruises, possibly broken limbs, or worse broken hearts. You remember tiny school uniforms, you cheered and supported, gave hugs and a firm pep talk when needed, and together with SCS, you created a safe space for your children. You poured all your love into the humans seated just here … and might I say, what a fine bunch of humans they are!  

I want to go back for second to Tracey's introduction. Thank you by the way. I go by many titles, but to the learners, I am simply Isa’s mum and Hamzah's mum, Zayyana's mum and then surprise, surprise, 4 years ago, I also became Liya’s mum. Being a mother of 4 requires me to wear many hats or in my case, many hijabs.

I am supposed to talk to you about my journey to becoming ‘successful’ - and I use air quotes for the term success because well what is success? Ok so I looked it up and according to what the Oxford Dictionary says - I did not meet the criteria and this is what I want to talk to you about this evening. Definitions. I have difficulty with introductions because they are a type of definition. They are aspects we tend to believe about ourselves, like whether or not we are public speakers - and this is the funny thing - your brain believes whatever you tell it. Don’t get me wrong definitions are important. When you have an exam, teachers will tell you multiple times, know your definitions, but what happens to our definitions once we step out into the big wide world?

What happens when they just don’t seem to apply anymore? Well, that is when you start creating your own definitions. You are going to have redefine many concepts for yourself and the journey you are embarking on. What does success mean to you? What do you believe about yourself? The world is going to try and tell you many things. Like who you should be, how you should be, where someone who looks like you fits in, or perhaps they will decide that what's on your head is an indication of what's inside your head.

They will put you in a box, label you, get you to conform and the lane they expect you to stay in might clash with who you actually are. How do I know this? The fact that I am standing here before you tonight means that all the labels we ignored, all the boxes we stepped out of and the lanes we changed …. all meant something! And I say we because I know my ancestors are celebrating,

So pay attention to your definitions- your introductions? There will be times when all you want to do is fit in, when what you actually need to do, is stand out! Maya Angelou said if you keep trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.

Your definitions will also impact the direction you take. To know where you are going, you also need to know where you come from- your home. I am thankful for the parents, partner and siblings I have. They guided me when I needed it and pushed me out of my comfort zone so I can be who I am meant to be. So look at your home and the family who surrounds you tonight. Look at your nest - you began in Grade 8 as a fledgling, a baby bird and now you have to fly. I’m sure you have seen a baby bird learning to fly. There's some fumbling and stumbling and aimless flapping about, but eventually it gets the hang of it. So in the next few years while you fumble and stumble, remember this nest, remember not to let the world force their definitions on you, remember to step outside the box and change lanes as often as you need to, and remember this family will be here for you until you take flight and soar.

I look around and see so many different generations here. We might have a few boomers (1964), gen X, millennials like myself, and of course our VIP Gen Zs. Just in case my message tonight was unclear, I thought I would try it in another language, one that I am still learning, so it might sound funny, but bear with me please as I attempt this.

Here we go:

You all have TikTok, so my message to you tonight is this:

·      If you want to lowkey, go viral, you cannot let the algorithm stand in your way,  

·      You are the CEO of your future and you have to give it main character (energy),  

·      Don’t let anyone shadow ban you,

·      Yes, you are going to go through many transitions, no cap, but trust me you are going to slay,

·      You are a heather and you own day 1,

·      It's not chai for you because this is your hot girl summer,

·      If you're going to do a duet, please do a vibe check,

·      Your FYP (for your page) will be what you want it to be, you don’t need an aesthetic,

·      You choose your trend, your POV matters, and listen closely …

·       You are not the reposter, you are the content creator, the OG influencer and that is your biggest flex!

Wow, my very clever watch has informed me that you have been sitting too long impacting on your blood circulation. Would you please stand up, move your hips around and stretch your arms out, and while you are there, just clap your hands.

Thank you, you have been a wonderful audience and you just helped me win a bet with my family, that I would get a standing ovation tonight”.


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