Dear Graduating Seniors,
Congratulations: You made it! You're about to graduate from high school and embark on the adventure of a lifetime — a hero's journey of epic proportions — what many affectionately call "real life." As if completing the Sisyphean task of finishing high school isn't enough, now you get to fight dragons of all strengths and sizes as grownups. It's time you realize your destiny, trust what you've learned. You're ready!
But before you go crossing a threshold into the unknown, all of us at West High can't let you leave without getting in a few last words. As the teachers in your life, we've seen you grow; we've watched you flourish; we've listened with open ears to your struggles; and we've been the cheerleaders rooting you on. Hip hip hooray! We're all sincerely proud of you. And, like many proud mentors, sometimes we can't help but give some well-intentioned, unsolicited advice.
This is the moment we've all been waiting for, working so hard for, and it's finally here. No matter what has happened to you, or what the world may throw at you, Ms. O'Brien-Holen says to "keep a positive mindset." Like the old saying goes, focus on the positive and the positive will grow. There's no better medicine for walking through the struggles of life than a positive outlook. So always keep your chin up, keep your gaze on the rising sun, and, like Ms. Clark has been known to say, "When talking with someone, always look in their eyes."
Mr. Troll says when you leave high school you'll have an experience similar to that of Neo leaving the Matrix in the popular science fiction film. Remember "The One"? Mr. Troll hopes students rise to the occasion of living their lives in a similar fashion as Neo, replacing former values with a passionate commitment to fight an oppressive robot race that enslaves a species. Just keep in mind, says Mr. Troll, "What's important to you and your peers now will radically and suddenly change." He suggests you embrace this change.
So embrace it; you've totally got this.
Mr. Methe too looks to you for making the world we live in a better place. He says, "It's your generation that's driving all of the change in the world."
So change it for the better.
You have the power and responsibility to do so. Take Ms. Rodriguez's advice as well and never "let other people's opinions dictate the way you live; it's your responsibility to make the most out of your life."
In thanking you in advance for making the world we live in better, we realize changing the world is no easy task. But somebody has to do it. There's no better time than now and there's no one better than you. That somebody is you. Go get 'em, and as Ms. Ehrheart says, "Dance like nobody's watching, love like you'll never get hurt, and sing like there's nobody listening!"
One surefire way to evoke a necessary change in the world is to "follow your bliss." Mr. Mackie echoes mythologist Joseph Campbell's famous words and goes further to say, "Do what you can't not do and let your passions guide the way." You've got to believe in yourself and find inner peace, and, in so doing, the light you cultivate inside yourself will be uncontainable and pour out into the world. In the words of Ms. Valentine: "Explore and discover your unique gifts, then work hard to develop them. You are important pieces of a universal plan."
"We all shine on like the moon and the stars and the sun," like the John Lennon song "Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)" goes.
Ms. Hyde harmonizes with everyone in saying, "Follow your dreams." Ms. Hyde says she has more regrets about things she hasn't done than those she has. Get out there. Live life. Don't be afraid to fail, and keep learning. As Ms. Tinker says, "Find a way to express your voice."
Also, don't forget to think practically. Ms. Robertson says, "Only purchase items you can afford; avoid credit card debt like the plague!" Be careful with student-loan debt too. Take it from those of us who know: Higher education can be expensive and time-extensive. Know how much it costs, do your homework on the school you're interested in attending, and put your heart and soul into your work. Despite what anyone says, well-executed creativity in academia goes a long ways.
And be not afraid; may confidence and sure feet guide your way. Ms. Utterback encourages you to take the long walk after high school with confidence because "some paths are windy; some are straight. But don't panic; either one will get you where you want to be."
And speaking of long walks, Mr. Lynch says to get out in nature and enjoy the sunshine: "Go for long walks outside and listen to the birds."
Good advice, and don't even worry if you lose phone service for an hour or two.
Here are some of your teachers' favorite inspirational quotes to take with you after graduation:
"I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there."
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"May your choices reflect your hopes and not your fears."
— Nelson Mandela
"Speak your mind even if your voice shakes."
— Maggie Kuhn
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
— Mark Twain
"Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple."
— Woody Guthrie
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go."
— Dr. Seuss
"Always do more than what is required of you."
— Gen. George S. Patton
"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination."
— Albert Einstein
"Do unto others as you would have done to you."
— The Golden Rule
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
— Marcel Proust
Temperance Tinker and Adam Mackie are English literature teachers at West High School in Anchorage. Tinker teaches International Baccalaureate (IB) Literature 12 and Honors English II; Mackie teaches World Mythology and Honors English I.
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