GRAD SPEECH: Megan Darzynkiewicz, Truckee High School (VIDEO: Commencement)
Thank you to all of those watching at home. I know you probably just want to skip forward and get to the point where you move your tassel and get to throw your cap, but bear with me for just a few more moments.
So I looked up the word valedictorian because, if you didn’t know, I’m a huge nerd. I figured it must mean something along the lines of ‘academics’ or ‘someone who decided to take way too many APs’, but as it turns out, it’s derived from the latin word valedictōrius, meaning to say goodbye. Given that we never got the chance to say a true goodbye, I am honored to be given the chance to address you all one last time.
From my first time getting up in front of you all right up on those stands during a football game to call a cheer, to our last school rally, I’ve been blessed with the chance to cheer, laugh, yell, and celebrate with you, and I have loved every minute.
It’s been 1,371 days since we stepped onto campus as freshman, eager to take on the adventure of high school. We laughed, we cried, we made friends and lost them. We found our passions and we found out what definitely wasn’t. We filled the halls with laughter, music, and chatter. We won Broman, and lost Powderpuff: twice. We competed in sports, theater, academics, and more. We aced some classes and failed others. Met our favorite teachers and took our favorite classes. But above everything else, we were teenagers, living our lives to the fullest and learning life lessons along the way. We couldn’t wait until June 13th, when we could sit in the baking hot sun for a couple hours, listen to some people speak, and then receive the piece of paper that told us “You made it”.
Then, 92 days ago, we were told that school would be closed, for what we thought would be 3 weeks at the most. Then 3 weeks turned into a couple months. And then a couple months turned into completely canceled. We were unprepared and blindsided. Distance learning was difficult, but it was harder to accept that you’d never see your friends in the halls again, never compete with your team again, never take that class that you looked forward to all day.
But we’ve adapted. We’ve found ways to hang out virtually. We’ve learned how to hang out 6 feet apart. We’ve gotten creative and found ways to stay connected. This virus may have physically separated us, but emotionally, it brought us together. No one else can feel the pain, the sadness, the ache that you’re going through. No one, except this class. Each and every one of us lost something in this time: a show, a sports season, a class, you name it. So when you feel alone, just know that we are here and with you.
My advice to us all would be this: try to look back with joy, not loss. Throughout this time, a quote from the office sticks with me. “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” So, remember the fun you had, the lessons you’ve learned, and the friends you made, but let this crisis also teach you to live in the present and cherish every moment of your life.
As we were closing out on our final moments of mandatory schooling, I realized that everything from here on out will be done by choice. Every bit of learning from here on out will be your choice. Some of you may be going on to college and some might not be, but either way, I urge you to continue to learn. I don’t mean strictly academic learning, but learning about the things you are passionate about.
Learn about the different types of woods and shapes that would make the best surfboard. Learn about the nuances of notes and production in the music industry. Learn the ins and outs of a car engine and how to fix one. Learn how to paint, to sing, to play an instrument, or to act. Learn how to bring people together for a cause you care about. Learn about what you can contribute to this crazy thing called life.
Learn about what it takes to be a good friend, a good sibling, a good daughter or son, and maybe one day, learn what it takes to be a good parent. Strive to learn what makes you happy, and once you find that, trick someone into paying you to do it for a living.
It’s up to us to find the meaning of our lives and to find the joy, so as we step into the new chapter of our lives, I ask you to continue to learn and to discover what makes you happy.
Because when you find that, there is nothing you won’t be able to accomplish.
Megan Darzynkiewicz is valedictorian for Truckee High School’s Class of 2020. This column is an adaptation of her graduation speech.
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