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Advice to my freshman-year self

AHS graduation speeches

Megan Carmody, president of the student council, was an Arlington High School speaker on June 3, 2023. 

Good afternoon everyone, and congratulations to the class of 2023.

Today is a day I have thought about for a long time. Since I was a little kid, I've always wondered what my graduation would look like. I would sit and watch the graduation episodes of my favorite Disney shows and try to imagine if mine would be similar.

One thing I never pictured when daydreaming of this big day was me speaking at graduation. Not because I didn’t think I would be able to stand in front of hundreds of people or speak without stuttering, but because I didn’t think I would have anything to say.

When I was trying to figure out how to write and present a graduation speech, I did a lot of research. I looked at other high school and college graduations trying to see what you are expected to say. One thing that was common among all of the speeches was the use of personal struggles and stories to give a lesson that the graduates could carry on with them for the rest of their lives. But I haven’t lived any more of a life than any of you.

So I don’t have any advice to give to you. But I do feel particularly qualified to give advice to someone who isn’t sitting in this audience today; my freshman-year self. They never told us when we wrote letters to our future selves in elementary school that we would have things to say in return. But if she could hear anything.

I wish she knew is that there is no harm in trying something new. This year was full of firsts, as well as many lasts. But those lasts would not have meant so much to all of us if we hadn’t been brave enough to make a memory of that first. My field hockey senior night would not have meant so much if I hadn’t volunteered to play goalie for the first time six years ago.

I wish she knew that your truest friends find you, and wasting time forcing relationships will only surround you with people who don’t embrace you for who you are. In my experience, the best friends are the ones who will show up to your games even when you never touch the ball, because they know how much it means to you

But most importantly I wish she knew to not try to predict the future because going through high school with a clear-cut idea of what a high school experience will look like only limits new opportunities.

"High School Musical" could never have prepared me for my four years at AHS. Math classes don’t randomly break into song and dance, and the student council president is not always valedictorian.

So I ask that as you all read letters from your fifth- or eighth- grade selves, you embrace the things that did not go to plan, because the unexpected is what makes life memorable.

For a while, I thought that if my past self could hear these things, high school would’ve been a lot easier. But obviously she cannot, so as someone who had to make the mistakes to learn these lessons, I can say I’m happy I did.

Thank you and congratulations to the class of 2023. And thank you to Carly Buck for helping me write this.

This expression of opinion at the 2023 Arlington High School commencement was published Sunday, June 4, 2022.

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