Special to the Tribune
“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” -Walt Disney
Esteemed teaching staff, fellow peers, family and friends, I am honoured to be the valedictorian of the Lake City Secondary graduating class of 2016. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers and community members who made dry grad possible.
Additionally I wish to extend a thank-you to my parents, friends, rugby coaches, and teammates. I have good news and bad news. The good news is we’re graduating. As for the bad news, well, we’re graduating; which is as terrifying as it is exciting. Thus our time as struggling caterpillars is coming to an end and we begin our journey as struggling butterflies.
In spirit of this allow me to take you, fellow grads, on a walk down memory lane with a song that topped the charts each year, starting with Grade 8 (Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae-Jebson.)
OK, so admittedly we have not always had the best taste. To be fair Grade 8 was a strange time filled with the misuse of eyeliner and wishing recess was still a thing. I choose to believe that the fact we survived the 2012 apocalypse proves our perseverance and large skill set.
And so we survive to see Grade 9 and are fortunate to be present for Macklemore to perform this surely classical debut… (Thrift Shop, Macklemore).
Ahem, needless to say, let’s just assume that what happens in Grade 9 stays in Grade 9.
Grade 10 (Shake It Off, Taylor Swift).
The first year that the Columneetza and WL kids were forced, against our will I might mention, to congregate under one roof. The merge may have been one of the most influential events to have happened in our high school years. Due to it so many connections were created that would have otherwise never been given a chance to form. Grade 10 also marks the year we are introduced to provincial exams. They seemed hard then, but looking back I would have taken any Grade 10 provincial rather than take one of Ms. Gobolos’s chemistry 12 tests.
With many new friends thus we enter Grade 11 (Uptown Funk, Bruno Mars).
There is a special place in my heart for Grade 11. Everything was so peaceful then, it was the calm before the storm. The storm I’m referring to is of course, Grade 12. It seems that one day you’re starting Grade 12 and the next day grad transitions and scholarship applications are due, and you still have to go to work, do homework, attempt to be social, go to the gym, do chores and play sports, and on top of it all it’s expected that we come to school with a “ready to learn attitude.”
Despite all this we graduates, we made it!
Of course I must pay my respects to all the people who helped us get to this point: our families, friends, coaches, teachers, the lovely staff at the Bean Counter and Dennis, the custodian. From these adult role models we learned so many things, such as how to speed walk through the hallways like Ms. Dubuc, and to accept that sometimes you must give up on soaring like an eagle and settle for flying like a turkey thanks to Ms. Gobolos. We became accustomed to Mr. Csizmadia calling us “sausages” or a “pickles.”
As for Mr. Duff…well, he asked me at least once a day, specifically, that I mention him in my speech. The list goes on and on, there are too many teachers to list for each skill that made them so memorable. If I didn’t mention a teacher, it’s safe to assume they gave me a bad test mark once or something.
It would be wrong of me to hold the attention of so many and fail to thank one of the most influential people I had the honour of knowing. The loss of our beloved teacher, friend, mother, and kindred spirit, Laura Kaufman is still fresh in our minds. She was taken so suddenly and unexpectedly that some days I still half expect to hear her laugh fill the hallways. She had a lovely laugh, more than that she had a truly lovely soul. She was kind, and intelligent. Every day she seized life and made the most of it. The emotions that are felt from the loss of Laura are difficult to put in words, but I asked Laura’s best friend, and number one fan, to give it a shot — some words from her daughter, Chloe Storschuk. “How beautiful is it that we live in a world where nothing lasts forever, we must fall in love with the love inside us, only then, will every moment living be worth dying for.’ I love the truth of this. Understanding that there are so many thing’s and people out in the world that we as humans have the capacity to love and haven’t experienced overwhelms and excites me. The things around us change and we experience the loss of things we love, but that doesn’t mean that there are not so many new things in our world that we will grow to appreciate and will become parts of who we are. My mom never backed down to an adventure, closed herself off to any experience or judged something before trying it. And that is how I believe a life should be lived, real.”
Grads, it is our duty to honour her memory. Not only for her sake, but for ourselves, we must be brave and embrace all aspects of life. Laura truly had many amazing qualities, too bountiful to list, but I believe perhaps that the most admirable of these qualities was her ability to never lose her inner child. She never allowed the world to rob her of her smile, even when times were rough. Somehow she was youthful, and mature all at once. So here’s to hoping that we never lose our inner child. In the words of Tolkien, “all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” She would be so proud of us all today.
With that said, fellow grads, do “it,” whatever your “it” may be. Just do it. Get that medical degree, or become a ski bum, or purchase your dream truck, or move to a third world country and help the poor. Go follow that passion that drives you. Do not wait for someone to tell you to go for it, give your “it” your all. A lot is going to change in years to come. You don’t need me to stand up here and tell you that. You are all fully aware. Despite this change and despite how cold and isolating the world may at times feel, do not forget you still have friends and family. You’re not alone. What you now lack, however, is excuses. No longer can you blame your teachers or parents or peers for the misfortunes you experience. You have no excuses now, grads, only the choices you make, good or bad. Do not be afraid to make the wrong choice, but frightened, rather, of never choosing. Of never seeking that piece that makes you whole. Fail…time and time again and make mistakes — fantastic, crazy, and wonderful mistakes.
I really know nothing more than you, grads, about what the real world holds but I do have some basic survival tips. Exercise, get outside, trust people, but know when to burn bridges, make mistakes, eat vegetables, partake in social gatherings, wear sunscreen, brush your teeth, and watch your favourite childhood movies. Put your phone down. Sure, text your parents, let them know university is hard and you cry a lot. Go climb a mountain that rises above the clouds and don’t take a picture, just enjoy every moment. Have a face-to-face conversation with someone, funny how rare those have seem to become. Do something extraordinary and don’t put it on your snapchat story. Meet someone new and don’t add them on Facebook. Say something humorous and don’t tweet it. Put the phone down. Turn off the TV and live real. Leave the world a far more exciting place because of your influence on it.
Embrace maturity, but under no circumstances should you attempt to grow up too quickly. Bob Moawad once said, “The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses; no one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours — it is an amazing journey — and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”
Today marks an end and a beginning: the end of high school, but the beginning of the rest of our lives. I like to think high school is similar to toilet paper, in the sense that you only miss it once it’s gone. Today we celebrate that although we are still kids, we are kids with diplomas and whole lot to prove to the world.