I can think of about twenty different catch phrases to inspire you to listen to me, lots of cutsey or funny or poignant turns to capture your interest, but I’m not going to write any of them down. When I wrote my original speech, it was full of shallow witticisms and lots of carefully placed phrases meant to make you all laugh, meant to make you all like me and like my speech. It was a speech that I should have been proud of as a writer, but I am not proud of it anymore. Yesterday I listened to your speeches—Laura, Anderson, Linnea, Jennifer, Dylan, Nick, and Robert—and I was impressed and flattered by your honesty, by your willingness to share who you are—your experiences, triumphs, discoveries, failures, opinions, and vulnerabilities—and share them with me.
I now think that my original speech was disrespectful to you, who were brave and trusting enough to be honest with me. I don’t want to mask myself with comedy this time; it’s a tactic I employ too often. I don’t want to stand up here and strive to make you remember me. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll cry, but I’m not expecting tears, nor am I writing for them. It feels a little self-serving to write and speak about myself—sort of like I’m writing a paper for a shrink—so I’m going to try to avoid anecdotes. Sorry, you’re still not getting paid to listen to me, but you’ll only have to suffer for five minutes or so.
I’ve always felt my love for this school was really dorky, something that people who go to other schools or hate being at RCHS laugh at and don’t understand. Listening to the speeches yesterday made me realize that I am not the only person whose attachment to the school is a little over the top; people I never really expected to love the school as much as I do.
The reasons everyone gave were right—we are all so supportive of each other, and there is no real social hierarchy to speak of because everybody—for the most part—gets along with everyone else, or at the very least coexists peacefully. In the beginning we were all just desperate to find anyone who would talk to us, anyone who would be halfway nice to us. I think we were all scared and still expecting middle school attitudes. Thankfully, we were all smarter than that and just crazy enough to attempt attending a new, tiny, quirky High School with no football team and ceilings still packed with sawdust.
There is a certain amount of necessary freedom we have here that we wouldn’t at other schools. Of course, the price of this freedom may be a heavy workload, but that’s an easy enough price to handle. For example, we have no real dress code. Last year there was a halfhearted attempt to impose one…an attempt that was royally ignored. Our school’s lack of dress code has not hurt anybody and has, in fact, inspired a lot of memories. Between becoming fully acquainted with Kelsey McKinney’s stomach and, along with others, making fun of Robert’s sweatervests, the many fashion escapades of Dylan Nickles, and Ethan’s famous leather skirt experience—which I can proudly say I stood next to him for—nothing ever really seems weird to me. Notice how nobody blinks when Rini Wood comes to school dressed as a cat, or renaissance faire buffs come to school the day of the event dressed in 1500s attire…down to the shoes. Heck, you can’t even be IN the classical society if you don’t have a toga! People have searched, faked, and found identities with clothing, and that is a necessary part of learning about yourself.
Growing and changing is necessary, and I don’t know if it would have been possible, at least for me, if I hadn’t been in such a supportive, conducive atmosphere. When I think about Lauren Nicholson in middle school, I remember a girl so terrified of people that she had learned to become invisible. She hid behind her books and her braces, afraid to speak. She was so terrified of being ridiculed that she only wore big tee-shirts and overalls, never stepping outside of the invisible box she had frightened herself into. Now, after four years at RCHS, she is a beautiful, confident girl who is a great public speaker and aspires to have her own publishing company. She is someone who I am very, very proud to call one of my best friends in the world. She, like so many others, has blossomed here at RCHS.
I know I’ll be happy for this year to be over, and I am excited to go off to college…but I’m not excited or happy about leaving RCHS. Sure, it’s time for a change of setting…but that means giving up all of the friends I haven’t made here yet, and all of the friends that I have. Leaving means not being able to see every one of you every day. It means no longer joking about that time Jameson dressed in drag and accidentally popped a boob, it means splitting up and spreading out, it means losing touch, it means walking down the halls and not knowing more than one or two people, it means walking away from comfort, and stability, and security. It means walking away from this support we all thrive on. I won’t lie to you, as excited as I am to graduate, I’m scared.
I’m scared as hell to go out there into a world I know I’m not prepared for. I’m scared as hell to try to make it in a career that eats people like me, who are discouraged by rejection. I’m scared as hell that the happiest memories of my life will be sitting here and laughing with all of you…because they are the happiest memories of my life right now, and I want to have so many more. I want to publish my books, I want to make a CD with the music I have been writing since seventh grade, I want to have my first kiss, I want to have a family, and I want to come back to my high-school reunion as someone better, stronger, happier, and more confident than the girl I am right now. I want to be able to come back and hug all of you, I want to have seen you on TV, your name in lights or as the inventor of the next best thing…I want to be as proud to know you then as I am to know you now.
The fact that I do have these things to look forward to propels me onward, but the fact that I’m leaving doesn’t mean I’m going away. Raleigh Charter has always been a safe haven for me, as I’m sure it has for many of you. So, even though I’m scared as hell to walk away, I will walk away. If I trip and fall down the stairs as usual, just laugh at me like you always do and I’ll be okay.
When I walk away, I want to wish you all the best of luck, success, and happiness. Not just to my fellow seniors, but to the teachers and faculty as well. You have been my friends, my mentors, my safety net, and my guides. When I walk away I want to remember you, and even if you don’t remember me, I am glad to have been one of the infinitesimal forces that, however insignificantly, helped to shape your lives and your futures.
That was very interesting to re-read. It reminds me not only of how much I've changed in the almost-five-years since writing that, but of how much I still feel like that eighteen-year-old poised on the edge of some huge freefall into an unknown future. I am that same girl again, having climbed a few more mountains and made it to an even higher precipice from which I must make my next leap. I'll try to be confident that, even if my own wings fail me, God will give me a net...or at least a strong updraft.
I'm living in a foreign country where 40% of the written and spoken language is utterly unfamiliar to me, where the cost of living is high, the ability to solve my own problems lies in the ability to make friends who can help sort them out for me...and I'm about to sever ties with my company. The reason, however, is because I need freedom. I need the freedom to freefall. I crave the freedom and flexibility to work when I want to work and play when I want to play--thankfully, Gaba will let me design my schedule in the kind of way I want.
Sometimes, I want to work in the morning, have the middle of the day to myself, and work again in the evening. Some days I want to have the morning to myself and work in the afternoon and evening. Sometimes, I want to work ten hours on monday, but only six on tuesday. Gaba lets me do that. That's the kind of randomness I need to keep my life flexible. I'll probably have some kind of rotating schedule until I figure out what I like the best. It may be that I work for ten or twelve hours, four days a week. This kind of erratic schedule would drive a lot of people insane, but not me. Erraticism makes me happy. It lets me be free.