This Year’s Speech

This morning I had the opportunity to speak to my whole school.  Probably for the last time. Here it is.


There is this really important question that as an adult and even as a teenager you should ask your self every once and a while.

Why are you doing what you do?

The answer I like best comes from Bryan Stevenson at the Equal Justice Initiative. He works with death row inmates to try to either get them off or just make sure they have the best defense possible.

He says, “I don’t do this work because I think it’s important. I don’t do this work because I think I have to do it. I don’t do this work because I think I have skills. I don’t do this work because somebody has to do it. I don’t do it because I even get to talk to wonderful people like you. I don’t do it because I feel like I was programmed to do it. I don’t do it for any of these reasons. I realized in that moment that I do the work that I do because I am broken, too.”

I realized this summer that my brokenness led me to working with teenagers.

That it threw me across the country to  [our school] and gave you to me.

That it sent me to the Stanley King Counseling Institute and made me a better listener.

That my broken lead me to apply to graduate school.

I’ve spent a lot of this year feeling like a high school senior. While writing applications I was grumpy and overwhelmed. While waiting for responses I was terrified and prone to tears. (Sound familiar?) And finally while receiving responses I was simultaneously thrilled and devastated. It is a lot to feel both of these at the same time.

The fact that I am not perfect, that I am not 100% solid, allowed me to decide that even though I got in to graduate school I didn’t have to go.

You see if I was perfect then I would have a plan. I would be sure of what was happening and next and I would be already booking plane tickets and hiring movers. I would know if I had to drive my car across the country or sell it. I would know what to do with Mulligan. I am real worried about my cat.

But not being perfect allows me the opportunity to decide what is right for me instead of what is the right thing.

Now feel free to groan a little bit because one of the things that has got me through all of this is Mr. J. He doesn’t know this so he’s probably a little embarrassed but the thing he says about college being a match to be made not a prize to be won applies to life too. It is about finding your own match.

At this point I have applied to 6 colleges been rejected by 4, accepted by one and am still waitlisted at the last. I have interviewed in person at 5 schools and have been rejected by 1, offered a job by one and am waiting on three. None of these are impressive stats. None of this makes me sound really awesome but that’s okay. I am in fact going to find the place that is right for me. I am going to make a life that is right for me.

I didn’t want to give this speech today. I seriously considered calling Ms. B and opting out. I considered faking sick. I considered actually getting sick. Like breathing really hard near a super ill person and then not exhaling so the germs would get me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to you. I always want to talk to you. It was more that there were too many expectations. There were too many stories I could tell and to many people I could thank. Seriously I could stand here from now til the end of the day and thank people. There were too many feelings. All of the feelings. And while my natural inclination may be to lean back from the feelings I am going to try to not do that. I am going to try to lean in.

I am devastatingly sad to leave even knowing it is the right thing to do. I am going to miss your daily stories, your pleads for candy, and even your totally unjustified test anxiety. I am going to miss the way this community takes care of its own and allows for both sadness and growth. I am going to miss dorm duty check ins and sporting events I don’t understand. I mean seriously, why do they blow the whistle in field hockey? They do it all the time. I am going to miss these speeches. Even the badly prepared ones like this.

I am going to looks for ways at my new school to emulate [our school]’s innate kindness, courage, and community.

Here’s the thing I have learned about  [our school] though. It doesn’t let people go. The Alumna come back in droves. Teachers leave and return (Just ask Ms. M) and even students who have not even been gone a year come back to visit.

It makes me feel a bit better about leaving and it should probably make seniors feel better too. We aren’t really saying goodbye we are really saying, “see you at next Revels.”

I want to go back to the beginning and finish this quote from Bryan Stevenson he says, “But I also know that it’s in brokenness that we also hear the things we need to hear. It’s in brokenness that see the things that we need to see.”

So I am asking you to do this for me, allow yourself to live in the brokenness. Allow for indecision and possibly failure. Let opportunities pass you by in order to find the place that is right for you.




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