I graduated from high school on Friday, June 3rd. The following is the speech I gave as the student address. Although it specifically refers to adolescence and the time of growth between high school and college (or whatever path you choose), the underlining message is one applicable to any phase in your life.
The number of laps run around the school to get to class on time. The number of hours you’ve spent on campus, pouring your heart into that one club, sport, or academy. The number of times Mrs. Allan has asked you to rewrite your thesis statement. The number of math problems you’ve been assigned in Mr. McDuff’s class…per assignment. The number of times you’ve wondered where you will go when the final bell rings, and the number of times you’ve dreamed of this moment right here, in your cap and gown, a breath away from freedom
It’s the year of our graduation, the symbolic number of our class, and yet who we are is far greater than could ever be contained in just four small numbers.
As a freshman at Clayton Valley, I remember looking around and seeing the seeds of who we are today being planted. For the first time, it seemed, we were getting to choose who we really wanted to be. We were encouraged to pick an academy, to pick a sport, to pick a passion and explore just what it was that made us tick. No longer were we simply going through the motions of going to school, we were taking an active role in shaping the kind of people we hoped to someday become.
As I stand before you today, in my last few moments of being a Clayton Valley senior, I’m so honored to witness the seeds that we planted in our first few moments at CV finally beginning to blossom.
Four years ago we were beginning to dip our toe into the water, but now we are fully submersed. We have chosen, through trial and error and countless wrong turns and misdirections, the path that speaks to who we are. The path that leads to a future that may not be perfectly clear to us as we stand here now, but is crystal clear in its intent. We may not know exactly where we will end up, who we will be standing with, or what we will be doing, but we know what it will feel like.
It will feel like we did as we first began to explore ourselves here at Clayton Valley what seems like a lifetime ago. It will taste like freedom and be wrapped in authenticity and, perhaps most importantly, it will feel like home.
Because that’s what we’ve done in our four years here. We’ve been searching for a home. More than that, we’ve been building it. Constructing it. Instead of taking a backseat in the search for our lives we’ve taken the tools into our hands and laid the foundation for the place that will make us feel like we’ve finally found where we are supposed to be. We’ve built it from the ground up: with steel beams of morals strengthened over time, and walls painted in the memories that remind us to live, and a roof that welcomes all those who share our vision.
At one time or another, we have all felt out of place. We have all felt lost, confused, and misdirected. We have all felt like we have nowhere to go.
But today, we have seen that it is up to us to create a space where we belong. It is not something to be discovered, it is something to be created. Something we can only construct once we shed ourselves of the fear that there is no one and no place to accept us. As we get ready to go off into the world for the first time, we aren’t doing it to find anything that isn’t already inside of us. Our home is a tent that can be laid wherever we so choose. Our home isn’t made of bricks and cement- it’s made of whatever it is that we decide is important to us. Our home is unique to who we are and the life that speaks to our soul.
Like many other students, when I began to realize that my time in high school was running out, I felt an immense pressure to pick a college that would be my “home”- the home we all dream about, the home we were working towards throughout our entire adolescent journey towards individuality.
With every college acceptance letter, I felt not excitement, but a growing pressure to pick the “perfect home” for me- a pressure to find this promised land just waiting for me to open my eyes and see it. I was absolutely terrified that I wouldn’t find a community that would welcome me into my new home, and I was afraid of leaving my hometown and never feeling “at home” again.
I was afraid, just as I had been as a freshman walking onto campus for the first time, that I wasn’t going to find my place in the world where I felt most myself.
But what I’m learning now that home isn’t the place on the map where we live- it’s the place where we are living. It’s in the coffee shop where you will pen your first novel. It’s in the operating room with your first patient. It’s on top of a mountain, in the eyes of your first child, in the hand of the love of your life.
Clayton Valley, we may be leaving the nest for the first time, stepping into the world for the first time, but we are not “leaving home”. We’re not supposed to look around and discover the place where we belong. We are not supposed to fear not finding our community. We are not supposed to fear feeling homesick for the rest of our lives.
We are supposed to be the unifier who creates the community. We are supposed to be the ones who welcome in others. We are supposed to be the ones who makes anywhere feel like home. We are supposed to be the creators, the advocates, the leaders.
Clayton Valley, the world is our home.