What I learned in High School
By Samuel Rodd
The other day, I fell asleep in the library. Actually, I didn't just fall asleep in the library, I practically slipped into a coma. I sunk back into that nice, comfortable chair, and just passed out for a bit.
As I walked into my next class, I received a text, containing a photo, of me, asleep in the library. All my friends in the class had received it as well, and it was now being shown to everyone in the general vicinity. In that moment, I looked around my side of the room. A bunch of people, laughing at this stupid picture, of me looking like a dead man in the library.
4 years ago, as a small, timid freshman, I probably would've been mortified, red in the face, ready to run away, with everyone laughing at me like that. Standing here now, I can tell you I was laughing right along with them.
It might sound cliche, but I guess what I'm trying to say is, we change. Not in big, epic moments, where your whole worldview changes. Life is rarely that grand. I wholeheartedly believe that there will be very few enormous epiphanies in one's lifetime. But people still do change. And this change will take place over time, over a lot of time, but it's truth and inevitability is undeniable.
If you were to ask me to jot down on a sheet of paper, the big, cataclysmic, world-shaking events in my life that lead me to here, like a character in a book, I don't think I could do it. On the other hand, if you were to ask me about what little moments I think helped shape me, even a little bit, I could probably conjure up hundreds. Maybe these memories are so small I don't remember them in their entirely, or all that vividly, but I still know how they affected me. From my first bad grade, to the time I stayed out just a little too late, to the new friends I made that forced me to open up, these, tiny, tiny memories shaped me into who I am today. My high school career has been full of hundreds of thousands of little moments that have taught me so much, and I know that experience is not unique to me.
To put it bluntly, high school is simultaneously the most uplifting, and most humbling experience most of us will ever go through. For example: You're not as cool as you think you are. Freshman year I was obsessed with trying to fit in, even a little bit. At the very least, I didn't want people to think I was weird. I don't know how well I succeeded, but it was still a big concern. As I continued over the next few years, I came to realize that trying to be cool was not always easy, and not always possible. That right there, that humbled me. On the other hand, I learned it doesn't matter. It simply doesn't matter. Whereas 4 years ago, I was super concerned with my image and perception, now, I've realized everyone is weird, everyone's got their silly quirks. At the end of the day, no matter how hard I could try to be cool, it is impossible to deny the fact that I know a lot about dinosaurs. Like way more than your average high schooler should, but I do. Is it "cool"? No, not at all. But is it me? I guess it is. And if all of you wracked your brain for a few seconds, I'm sure you'd find something that isn't cool, that you absolutely love, and honestly, I hope you share it with the rest of the world.
To get back to what I was trying to say, we all change, and it's always gonna be little moments that you find yourself going back to. To take a page from my sociology class, it's weak connectors that will push you forward. And I know I'm taking that concept a little out of context, and warping it a little to fit the theme, but the general idea still stands. So maybe not every one of these little memories from high school is going to be perfect. Maybe you cried over a test, or a fight. Maybe someone told you what you like is stupid. Maybe you didn't feel like you were cool. But thanks to your time here, I can almost guarantee that you settled into your own skin a little more. You became just a little closer to a human being. A little closer to yourself. And that's invaluable.
I could stand here and swear off all my bad memories. All my bad grades, all my big fights and feuds, that one time I just absolutely missed the ball in gym, the hundreds of other times I absolutely missed the ball in gym. I could do that. But I feel that my time here is meaningless if I don't acknowledge all of it. The good and the bad - embrace it all. Stop being ashamed of silly mistakes that don't matter in the long run. Live in your own skin a little bit. Stop trying to be cool. My high school career taught me that it's ok to laugh at yourself sometimes. Maybe it taught you something different. That's the beauty of our time here.
You can go through all 4 years and take away something totally different. But at the end of the day whatever you take away, is a result of the way you changed here. So maybe you'll never come back to Pelham after college. Maybe you'll live here for the rest of your life. Whatever you do, don't forget your roots. Remember the little things. Embrace your stupid quirks. And above all, acknowledge and love the way you changed here. You only got to go through it once, don't let it be wasted. I've been Sam Rodd, and I'm not "cool". I hope you aren't either. Thanks for listening. Congratulations, and best of luck to all.