The one word that I would offer up if asked how I am feeling right now is envious. (And if I got two words, I might throw in “nervous” too…) But most of all, I am feeling envious. And far be it from me to speak for others, but I think everyone here is envious (all of us here in the audience at least). All of us who are teachers, parents, alumni, adults… anyone who is a job-holder, rent payer, grocery-buyer, or car-owner… we are ALL feeling envious. And it is you, class of 2014, that we are envious of! We are envious of every single one of you. Why? Because you are about to enter one of the most exciting, challenging, and absurdly FUN times of your entire life. I’m talking about high school. It’s one of those places and times that you will enjoy all along the way, but you can’t even begin to realize quite how much you love it until you get to the other side.
That’s where I am speaking from today and from where all these people are watching you from—from “the other side” that is. “The other side” is this nostalgic, bittersweet place where you get to look back on those experiences in life that we sometimes call “Remember when?” times. You know the ones I am talking about because you are already at an “other side” place in your life tonight. You are now at a time in your life where you are on “the other side” of your Middle School career. And you too can look back on the “Remember when?” times. Even tonight, with your “other side” perspective, I bet you will look back on 8th grade and play this game of “Remember when?” I imagine you might say things like:
- Remember when Lee spelled “rutabaga” correctly?
- Remember when the ghost would write on Ms. Hitt’s board?
- Remember when we blamed Sheldon for EVERYTHING?
- Remember when Tuna whined all the time?
- Remember when we had a historian who accidentally deleted all the pictures from that EPIC Street Jam?
- Remember when we were probably the only 8th grade class in the history of St. Andrew’s to have not one, but two dances affected by snow?
- Remember when Carlos and Peryn gave Weezy and Drake a run for their money with their lunchtime raps?
- Remember at the retreat when a bathroom flooded the girls’ cabin?
- Remember when Ford convinced Helena everyone’s locker was refrigerated except for hers?”
- Remember Bob Saggett, animal bracelets, toms, Boo Radley the sketch and “What’s the dill?”, Jack Cooke’s blackmarket belt business, and Harrison’s frightening old lady voice, and I could keep going on and on…
There are so many things to look back on and laugh about! And if I can come up with that list as a teacher, there is no telling how many other memories and “Remember when?” stories you 8th graders can come up with. And good news… Next comes high school… where you have even more freedom and even more activities that will give you so many opportunities to create these kinds of memories.
Ok so we’ve talked a little about y’all. Now let’s talk about me. I am getting married in about 2 months. (So while y’all are nervous about spending the next 4 years with the same 90 people, think about me... I’ll be spending the rest of my life with ONE person.) But anyway, the point is, you and I will have lots of changes by the time next school year gets here. Come this Fall, and I’ll be Mrs. Kelly, you’ll be freshman, I’ll be sharing a closet, and who knows, maybe JG will be getting to school on time…But all jokes aside, here is why I tell you about my wedding. As most of you know, I went to St. Andrew’s… for 13 years… and I sat where you are sitting… and I have already done what you are about to do… I went to high school, and then college, and then graduate school, and now I have a job … and you know what? Those people that I went to school with here at St. Andrew’s, those people who were with me when we did what you are about to do, those same people are still my people. Some of them are my best friends. And they will be beside me this summer when I do what you are doing and starting a new chapter in life. One of them is my maid of honor. One of them is my matron of honor. One of them is a bridesmaid. And one of them, well, we’re calling him a bridesman.
And I bet, I just bet, that on that day this summer, we will play the “Remember when?” game. And although our version of the game will be “the St. Andrew’s 2K3 edition” because we are at a different “other side” than you are, we will still remember all the same kinds of things as you will tonight: teachers, friends, sports, drama, good times, catastrophes, changes, failures, victories—all these things you have experienced in Middle School that you will experience again in your journey to the other side of high school.
So what now? How do you best go through high school and come out smiling on the other side? Well, I guess I could remind you of the fact that your freshman GPA matters (really—it does!) and the earlier you do your service hours the better and you should participate in anything and everything, but….while I do hope you do all of the above, I think you already know all of those things.
So…. I asked our good friend Atticus Finch what his advice would be to you today… and he told me he had just one thing to tell you. So here is my, I mean, his advice for your journey in high school: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it…” So be good to one another. Be good to everyone. Even your teachers. Even your parents. But especially to one another. High school is fun and exciting and full of laughter if –IF-- you take care of each other.
We are a small school…so we are a lot like family. And just like family, you don’t have to like everybody and you don’t always have to agree with everyone and you don’t always have to get along, but just like family, you are stuck with one another, so you owe it to yourself and you owe it to each other to climb into one another’s skin and walk around in it. Allow yourself some changes in perspective. You’ll be glad you did. Especially when one day, your perspective is looking back from “the other side.”