GRAD SPEECH: Paige McGarry: North Tahoe High (VIDEO: Commencement)
Hello fellow graduates, family members, friends and esteemed North Tahoe High School teachers and staff. I want to start off by saying thank you to those who traveled far and wide to be with us today and to the people who have stood by our sides supporting and watching proudly as we have grown up. It is because of you, our safety net, that we are standing here today prepared and confident to make the new journey we have in front of us completely our own.
For all of us, leading up to this moment, it has always been easy to look ahead and imagine what our lives would behold. It has been fun to lose ourselves in the dreams of “what if?” without the fear of commitment or ever making the wrong decisions. The last four years have been filled with different ideas of what our futures should look like and what we want them to look like. These ideas could change daily if we wanted them too. Thoughts of traveling the world, going off to college, going to work on your own, meeting new friends all the while still loving the ones you have already made– in our dreams of the future we could do and be whatever we wanted.
Until now we have spent our time dreaming of what comes next for us and now that we are here, it is equally terrifying as it is exciting. Now we no longer have to wonder, what if? Each and every choice that is in front of us is completely ours to make. We are the creators of our own destiny. We get to live our lives how we think they should be lived. As I look out at all of your faces, I can’t contain my smile, because this class is truly remarkable and each one of our futures are so bright.
The definition of commencement means “to begin or start”. The incredible thing about that word is the power that lies beneath and what it means to us in our lives today. The true message stating that what lies in front of us is a new adventure, one that is completely our own. As we cross over this graduation stage, we are starting new and greeting the rest of our lives head on. Oprah Winfrey once said, “It doesn’t matter how far you might rise, at some point you are bound to stumble. Because if you’re constantly doing what we do, raising the bar, if you’re constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages, you will at some point fall, however, there is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”
I believe in the strength that each and every one of us possesses. I believe in the grit ingrained in our personalities from growing up in such an incredible place. I believe in the successes and failures that each one of us will undergo in the face of adversity. Most of all I believe in the willpower that will push us to stand back up again if we are knocked down. I have full confidence when I say: I believe in us and I believe in the family that we have built for ourselves.
I remember the first day of freshman year. Some of us were confident, determined to not be the annoying freshman and prepared to take North Tahoe High School by storm. Others were not so confident. They were hesitant to open themselves up to this new world of High School and to be honest, I think, some were disappointed in the sheer fact that there were no moments where we broke out into song like in High School Musical, myself included. Each and every one of us had a different story and none of us were aware of just how intertwined our lives would truly become. I don’t mean to sound cheesy when I say strangers became family. However, there really isn’t a better way to explain our story. Without even noticing it, the bond between each and every one of us grew stronger with every time we supported each other on the sports field, or cheered each other on in rally competitions, or made sure everyone had a friend to sit with at lunch. The amazing thing about this class is it didn’t matter where you came from or what your story was.
Some people believe that these differences divide a group of people, but not with us. It is our diversity and differences that make us stronger; and it is our kindness and empathy that allows us to realize this. Everywhere we look in North Tahoe High School we see people supporting each other. We see the family and camaraderie we have built together. That is why the future doesn’t scare me. No matter how far apart we are, truly we are just a call away. That simple fact gives me courage. I know I am never alone and I know I am never really saying goodbye. The walls of North Tahoe don’t contain the family we have built, rather it lives in each and every one of us and it will never leave no matter where this crazy adventure takes us.
So, thank you. Thank you for giving me this family to hold on to. Thank you for shaping me into the person standing before you now. Thank you for the laughs you have given me when we had to be quieted by refs… supposedly there is such a thing as being “too supportive” at sports games. Thank you for the memories of singing around a campfire at Night Light. Thank you for dancing like no one’s watching at dances. Thank you for being yourselves and most of all, thank you for being the best class anyone could ask for. When people look back to remember the class of 2020, they will remember the energy and life we brought to this school. They will remember the leadership we demonstrated and the impact we left behind.
However, this is not goodbye. While we may be leaving the school and people we have spent every day of the last four years with, we aren’t leaving for good. Instead we are saying hello, because as soon as one door closes, another one opens. We are entering the time of our lives where we are expected and even encouraged to make mistakes. We are supposed to feel invincible; to accidentally take the wrong bus and get lost; to fall in love over and over again; to meet the people who will change our lives for the better, or for the worse.
Ironically, mistakes are the only way we learn, teenagers tend to be pretty stubborn. We shouldn’t fear the change headed our way, we shouldn’t try to be the perfect person because it is these experiences that make us into who we will eventually become. Graduation is an exciting time. It marks both an ending and a beginning; it’s warm memories of the past and big dreams for the future.
What will the future hold for us? When we were little kids people asked us “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The answers were Batman, Superman, a princess, or in my case a mermaid. When we got a little older they asked us again. We answered movie stars, doctors, teachers and pro athletes. Now that we have reached the end of our high school career and we are about to enter into the world, when people ask us “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, they expect us to have an answer.
So, here’s an honest one: who the heck knows. All I know is that the world better watch out, cause here comes the class of 2020.
Paige McGarry is a graduating member of North Tahoe High School’s Class of 2020. This column is an adaptation of her graduation speech.
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