Mindy Kaling’s speech about being a single mother will inspire you to live your best life

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Kayleigh Dray
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Mindy Kaling.

“Structured ambition can sometimes be motivating,” says Mindy Kaling, “but, also, feel free to let it go.”

Mindy Kaling has made it her mission to inspire the masses – and she definitely did so during her commencement speech at the Dartmouth 2018 graduation on Sunday.

During her 17-minute address, Kaling dished some practical advice to the students gathered before her, including such gems as “remove ‘Proficient at Word’ from your résumé”, “you never need more than one pancake”, “buy a toilet plunger”, and “date like everyone’s watching, because we are”.

However, while the Ocean’s 8 actress made plenty of people laugh with her speech, she also left many feeling moved when she shared a “personal story” from her own life – one which revolved around her baby daughter, Katherine.

“I will tell you a personal story,” she said. “After my daughter was born in December, I remember bringing her home and being in my house with her for the first time and thinking, ‘Huh. According to movies and TV, this is traditionally the time when my mother and spouse are supposed to be here, sharing this experience with me.’ And I looked around, and I had neither. And for a moment, it was kind of scary. Like, ‘Can I do this by myself?’”

Looking out across a sea of expectant faces, Kaling continued: “But then, that feeling went away, because the reality is, I’m not doing it by myself. I’m surrounded by family and friends who love and support me. And the joy I feel from being with my daughter Katherine eclipses anything from any crazy checklist.

“I just want to tell you guys, don’t be scared if you don’t do things in the right order, or if you don’t do some things at all. I didn’t think I’d have a child before I got married, but hey, it turned out that way, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I didn’t think I’d have dessert before breakfast today, but hey, it turned out that way and I wouldn’t change a thing.

“So if I could impart any advice, it’s this: If you have a checklist, good for you. Structured ambition can sometimes be motivating. But also, feel free to let it go.”

And then, triggering another spurt of giggles, Kaling joked: “Yes, my culminating advice from my speech is a song from the Disney animated movie, Frozen.”

Kaling finished her seriously motivational pep talk by saying: “I’ve covered a lot of ground today, not all of it serious. But I wanted to leave you with this: I was not someone who should have the life I have now, and yet I do.

“I was sitting in the chair you are literally sitting in right now and I just whispered, ‘Why not me?’ And I kept whispering it for seventeen years; and here I am, someone that this school deemed worthy enough to speak to you at your commencement.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, but especially not yourself. Go conquer the world. Just remember this: Why not you? You made it this far.”

Watch the speech in full for yourself below:

During a previous interview with NBC’s Willie Geist, Kaling explained that she hopes to draw parenting inspiration from her own mother, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2012.

“My mom was incredibly fierce and so devoted to us, just loved us and really wanted us to be happy no matter what we did,” she said at the time.

“My career choice was not something that she was familiar with and she was just so supportive of that.”

Expressing a wish to pass that badass feminist trait to her little girl, Kaling added: “If I could give that to my child, just that open-mindedness, I’d be so happy.”

Image: Getty


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.