Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The best four years of your life.

If you read my blog post from yesterday, you know I'm a little sad about graduating from college and leaving Columbia (and all my friends) behind. While writing that post, I was reminded of my commencement speech from high school.

Yes, this is actually a picture of me, not a Pinterest picture. Shocker!

I really didn't want to speak at my graduation at first; I really didn't think I had anything to say that the audience hadn't already heard at each of their previous children's graduation ceremonies. I definitely knew I didn't want to give the typical recap speech of high school: highlighting the best moments, listing my class' athletic and academic accomplishments, and telling inside jokes that the majority of my 139 classmates would have understood.

Instead, I wanted to do something different. I'm from a fairly small town, where most of my classmates had gone to school together since kindergarten, you knew pretty much everyone's name, and many of my friends had the same teachers their parents had had years ago. I wanted to remind everyone that regardless of whether they had enjoyed high school or not, there is always something better waiting up ahead. To steal a line from the romantic comedy Just Friends, I don't think anyone should be "the girl [or boy] who peaked in high school." So this is the speech I gave, and I hope I accomplished my goal:

There exists in our society today a well-known adage that “high school is the best four years of your life.” Well, just for tonight, my wish for the Class of 2008 is that this saying is true for each and every student sitting behind me. But, I’d like to stress that this is my wish only for tonight, and for the rest of the summer. Because in another four years, I hope all of you can say that your experiences in college or the armed forces or the workplace were the best four years of your lives; and in another four years, that beginning your careers were the best years of your lives; and four years after that I hope that getting married and starting a family will be the best years of your lives. Eighteen years after that, I hope that if you decided to have children, you will watch them walk across their graduation stage and know that raising them into young adults and preparing them for independence after high school were the best years of your lives.

My ultimate wish for your high school years is that you used them as a foundation to achieve the feat of continuously improving your life year after year. I hope that you learned that not all your plans will fulfill your expectations, but that nothing ruins your life, only changes it. I hope you learned that some friends aren’t really forever, but some friends will continually support you without reservation. I hope you learned that you will not win everyone’s affection, but that sometimes being disliked by the right people is a sign of your own worth.

In addition to these important lessons, I hope you discovered your own personal set of beliefs during high school and developed the fortitude to adhere to these principles. I hope that you didn’t only master the basic textbook concepts of math and science, but that you acquired invaluable time management and study skills to help you in your future educational and professional endeavors. I hope that through your relationships with your teachers and administrators, you grasped the crucial value of respect and compassion.

Now, as we reach the culmination of our high school lives, I ask that each of you take these lessons and these skills with you, whether you plan to continue your education or enter the workforce, and use your experiences to build yourself the best life you can, the life that you deserve. I ask that you prolong your fond memories of high school until the end of the summer, but that when that new chapter in your life begins, I wish that none of you will ever have to say, “high school was the best four years of my life.” There’s a reason that saying is in present tense.

I wish you all the best of luck! Thank you.*
So, I need to remember to take my own advice as I move on with my post-graduate life, and thank you Mizzou for the best four three and a half years of my life ... thus far.

*Note: My speech was not edited for content or grammar, as I wanted to preserve it in its original high school state. I apologize for any mistakes.

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