Margaret Atwood had addressed the graduates of the University of Toronto on June 14, 1930, on their convocation ceremony. In the speech, she intends to give her insight on life. She has spoken about numerous topics, stating her own experience at a liberal arts school and her various trials afterwards, leading to her becoming a writer.
Atwood’s purpose in the speech is to explain to her audience that they aren’t prepared for life, but its all about the attitude they exhibit which will decide the course of their life. She goes on to says that, “I’m here to tell you that it’s an armpit out there.
As for your university degree, there are definitely going to be days when you will feel that you’ve been given a refrigerator and sent to the middle of a jungle, where there are no three-pronged grounded plug holes.”
Her words are true. Life, as we know it, is not a smooth sail but has its own highs and lows. Each day will bring with it new challenges, new learning, new opportunities. At times we may even begin to question ourselves and feel less equipped or incapable in handling situations. But that’s what the test of life is. No matter how bad life gets, it is upto us as to how we choose to react to those uncomfortable and irking moments. As Atwood says in the speech, every single matter has two sides; positive and negative. It entirely depends upon ‘our attitude’ in life as to how we handle the situation and come out as a winner. If we cannot change an inevitable event, then it is better to accept it and work around it than grieve over it. She can either choose to see the glass as half empty or half full. In Atwood’s words, “…if you spill your milk you’re left with a glass which is either half empty or half full.”
We ourselves can control our feelings and attitude. We are the in-charge of it. No one else but we can initiate the necessary changes to live our life as happily and blissfully as possible. If we choose to look at the ‘half-empty’ version of the glass, then we are doomed to remain sad and depressed about it. But if we celebrate the ‘halffull’ version of the glass, then we would be firm in our attitude and in action, for all the concerns that we might encounter in life.
Atwood says that there is nothing that we cannot do as a human being. The animals are incapable of reasoning, unlike us. We, the humans, carry those values, attitude and the sense of reasoning to alter things in our favour. Hence, we should acknowledge everything that comes our way and design our destiny carrying a positive attitude and outlook in life. Atwood says, “…we as a civilization know what mistakes we are making and we also have the technology to stop making them; all that is lacking is the will.”
By denying to correct the wrong, we are letting our destiny control our lives, whereas we humans are essentially equipped to mend anything in our favour, just by exhibiting the right attitude for everything in life.
Hence, it’s injustice to self to keep sulking or submitting ourselves to destiny, simply waiting for the inevitable end of our lives. We must not let some bad event define the way we choose to live or to let us face problems for the rest of our lives, for that’s not who we actually are. We are stronger than that. Hence, by carrying the right attitude, we can lead a happy and a fulfilling life.
In the essay, Atwood concludes it by repeating her quote which goes like this, “You may not be able to alter reality, but you can alter your attitude towards it, and this paradoxically, alters reality. Try it and see.”