So I am graduating from high school in two weeks. Time has definitely flown by. I was told to write a valedictorian speech that I might have given had I been chosen (thank goodness I wasn’t; speech giving is not in my area of comfort). But if I did, I would keep it short and to the point. This is a relatively rough version of what I would say to my fellow classmates graduating if I had the opportunity to:
“To start off, I would like to begin with a disclaimer. I’m not entirely sure why I out of everybody else should be giving you advice. I don’t feel like my grades or really anything gives me the right to tell you what you should do in the coming years. I’m just like the rest of you. A teenager about to start life, making decisions that will affect the rest of that life. Standing in this arena like the rest of you, wearing this rather unflattering gown, waiting for that piece of paper that tells the world: “hey! Look at me, I’m not totally incompetent.” But back to the speech, though I am no different from you, I hope you will allow me this time to talk about the things that I think are important to remember in the coming years.
[Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome blah, blah, blah]
I feel honored to stand up here and talk to my fellow classmates and their families. Looking back on the last four years at AMCHS is bittersweet for me. I see all that I accomplished, yet I also see the struggles and stress that was induced during because of those accomplishments. I know most of you see that too. I know the old saying that high school is a mere stepping stone to the thing called ‘real life’ and it’s actually really easy, but in all honesty it was hard. It was stressful. I personally had many obstacles to work through during my time here. But, I also had great times too; like when I actually managed to write that paper or figure out that math problem. My point is, there were so many different emotions and stages and all kinds of things that I felt during my time spent in that school.
And I suppose that is what life is about. There are always ups and downs no matter what you choose to do with your life. There are going to be great times when you’re cloud 9 and there are going to be times when you don’t even want to get out of bed. But that’s life, and one way or another we are all going to have to come to terms with that. After all, we only have one to live.
But I guess the reason I’m even giving this speech is tell you something. And I thought about saying something eloquent that will impress you all with my speaking abilities and intelligence and vast life experience. But I realized that in all honesty, most of you won’t remember what I said 2 weeks from now. That’s fine, I wouldn’t either. So I’ll keep it short: it is okay.
It is okay to have ups and downs in life, to make mistakes. None of us are perfect and that is okay; we are not supposed to be. Now is the time to make those mistakes. You never know, those things you think might turn into mistakes may actually be the best decisions you make in your life. And remember, it is okay to fail at things, to succeed at things (hopefully you know what I mean) or to land somewhere in the middle. You will survive and though it is a cliché, you will be better from it. It is okay to be the true, authentic you no matter where that leads you.
Also, it is okay to change your mind. I’m almost positive everyone in this room has changed their mind regarding something relatively important and look! You are still here, sitting in that chair with your gowns and caps about to earn your diploma. It is okay to change your minds 2, 3, even 5 times in college, on different jobs, on just about anything you can think of. It is better to make those decisions now and find where you are supposed to be then to look back 40 years down the road and realize you should have done it differently. Change your mind, your appearance, your lifestyle and your views; now is the time.
Live life how you want it. Now, that doesn’t mean throw your life away on things that you know are dumb. But to change your mind, meet new people, go new places, do new things. Even if people are telling you that you will fail, do what you know will be best for you. Sometimes you have to be a little selfish. It is okay. Life will go on. Now is your time. The next couple of years are for you, to figure out what you should do, what kind of person you will be, (and admittedly cheesy) what mark you will leave on this earth.
So be you. Be proud of the person you are, of the things you have accomplished to get here. Be happy to close the pages on this chapter of your life. Be sad to leave behind the memories. Be excited, and scared, to venture into this next section of your life. Be anything you want. Do everything you want. It is okay.
So class of 2016, be true to you and remember graduation is only the beginning.”