The Paly Voice acquired the following speeches from their authors, with their authors’ consent to publish. The authors wrote the speeches with the intention of delivering them at graduation, but were not selected. Each speech went through an evaluation process on May 19 by a panel of staff members. The views stated in these speeches do not necessarily reflect the views of The Paly Voice, nor those of its staff.
by Maya Kitayama
Four years ago, I would not have pictured myself standing here, speaking at graduation. When I started as a freshman on this campus, I immediately designated myself as a quiet, reserved, and semi-awkward adolescent who really liked to dance. I carried this identity as a shield, keeping myself restricted and closed off from other opportunities. All around me, I saw my class as a collection of labels. And I began to grow a hatred for the institution of high school, a school of classifications.
For a long time, I believed high school was about immediately identifying yourself and sticking to the hasty decision for the next four years. I never even bothered to consider that there could be more to the high school experience besides getting through as fast as possible. Rather, I’ve managed to morph into a person that my freshman year self wouldn’t recognize.
As a freshman, no one knew who I was. As a senior, people still don’t really know who I am, but I’m okay with that. It’s taken me four years, but I’ve come out on the other side without the label I placed on myself, alongside a class who has defied every preconceived notion I’ve had of them.
Let’s face it, Paly is tough. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This school pushes us academically and forces us to work tirelessly in order to thrive. But Paly, whether we’re aware of it or not, also shows us what we’re truly capable of. This is the school that tests the limits and pushes boundaries, but ultimately turns out a graduating class each year bursting with capability, passion, anticipation, and the assurance that they are ready to take on the world. The class of 2014 is no exception. I am honored to graduate with a group of so many amazing individuals. Granted, I don’t know all of you, and to be quite honest, I don’t know if I like all of you either. But regardless of my personal preference, this is a class completely capable of taking on the next stage in life. And we all have this school to thank.
One of the stereotypes of being a teenager is the idea that we think we’re all free and invincible. And, in some cases, we prove this to be true. But an equally significant part of being a teenager is self-doubt. The unanswered question of whether or not the person I am is the person I’m supposed to be.
I’d like to think I’m no longer the quiet freshman I thought I was supposed to be. Sure, I’m still semi-awkward, and yes, I still like to dance. But Paly has allowed me to find a greater version of myself. Someone not afraid to yell, throw out my opinion, and tackle a challenge. Someone who can stand before you all today and sincerely say she owes it to this school for helping her get here. Thank you.