Kristina Ohemeng OPC '16
So I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I would say in my speech; I sent out some mass snapchats for advice, but they all proved rather unhelpful. I used Google, a lot, but I don’t think anyone wants or needs to hear a paraphrased version of the "I have a dream speech" or any other famous speech for that matter. Naturally, I did what I always do when I have writer’s block; I procrastinated and when I procrastinate I do literally anything else to avoid the task at hand.
And so in my typical fashion, I began watching an eight-hour miniseries, to escape the reality that, yes, I would be speaking to you today, and, yes, you guys came out here to hear an actual commencement speech. Somewhere around hour three of my TV binge, it struck me that a detailed summary of this eight-hour miniseries wouldn’t be an adequate substitute for a graduation speech, but it did come from the History channel, and that’s quality television, so you guys are missing out.
And thinking about history and the passage of time, and even more specifically my time at Penn Charter, I thought it would be most fitting to speak of the period that is most fresh in our minds...and that would be senior year. If you had asked me my freshman year what I was looking forward to the most in the next couple of years I would’ve said graduation, and the answer would’ve been the same sophomore year, and it would have been the same my junior year but even more forceful because as a junior there’s nothing you want more than to be a third-tri senior. And so I spent a good amount of time waiting for third-trimester senior year and eventual graduation to come around. However, it appears that in between my eagerness for the end of junior year and my anticipation for graduation, I forgot I had a yet another full year of school to deal with.
Seniors, this year, has been quite the year, am I right? It has been a year full of questions: where are you applying, why here and not there, what do you want to study, did you finish that application and a variety of other such questions that made me feel like Daquan filling out his common application. It’s been a year full of deadlines (November 1 and January 1 became something of an application apocalypse), and nagging (senior year proved to me that I won’t ever forget the sounds of my parent's voices). A year full of leadership and responsibility, we found ourselves as team captains, club leaders, editors in chief, having to balance our personal and academic lives with the task of leading lower classmen and navigating our respective teams and clubs through the school year.
And so it’s been a year full of expectations, and I think we can all agree when I say often it felt like too much. Too many deadlines, too many papers, too much responsibility, too many voices in our ears telling us what to do. Despite my inability to comprehend why the college process was so demanding or why no one seemed to understand the value of letting me lay on the couch and do nothing, I genuinely learned something in the midst of a hectic school year and a distorted sleeping schedule. People want things from you and they always will, but it’s important to remember what you want for yourself. A lot of times we feel ashamed and insecure because we don’t have answers to those seemingly critical questions, and we don’t know what we’re supposed to do. Which is okay, we aren’t fortune tellers, we are people, and while goals and dreams are created for the future, life should always be centered in the present.
Parents are pretty decent at giving advice, whether you ask for it or not. An old African proverb my dad told me the other day states: “A lizard does not eat pepper for the frog to feel the heat in its mouth,” and while the language may be a little different the meaning is the same. Living in the present doesn’t mean going around and being reckless, it means owning what you do because the kind of life you want to lead is determined by the choices you make.
Penn Charter has done a good job of trying to get us to be at the moment, to enjoy what it is we have while embracing the new opportunities and challenges coming our way. As seniors I think there was always a lot of excitement to get one foot out of the door, to conclude our high school journey as soon as possible; the mantra “I can’t wait until I get into college” (along with gallons of coffee) was something that used to keep me going during the ruthless months of first and second trimester. But the key thing, something I’ve noticed about our grade, is that despite our enthusiasm to leave when asked to step up and be present for the school community we all came through (Meeting for Worship might be the only notable exception). Starting with the senior retreat, when it was time for the senior class to be at the moment, to lead and be present for the school community, inside and outside of the classroom, we did so with energy and style. To quote Nirvikar Singh, “Our grade is really good at getting HYPE”!
Now it’s June 11th. I’ve been waiting for this day, we’ve all been waiting for this day, but there are things I’m going to miss. I’m going to miss the way that in the right light Mr.Larrabee’s head shined bright enough to be seen for miles away, I’m going to miss coming in the mornings and seeing seniors passed out in the senior lounge only for us to be kicked out by Ms.Ezzo, and I’m going to miss the friendly competition that is Color Day (I know blue is still a little salty after their loss).
Our many years at PC, colored by cherished memories, were preparing us for the future, and today we, the class of 2016, stand at the intersection of our present and our future. All the memories we have made and shared as a class, all of our accomplishments and failures, all the people who have supported and encouraged us have led us to this moment, and now as we move forward, let our futures be demonstrative of all the work we have done and the work we are still doing.
Thank you and Congratulations to the Class of 2016!