Senior Speeches: Neema Kania ’19

February 26, 2019

I stand here on this stage telling the story of my life but what I want everyone to know is that, a home is not always represented by the four walls that surround you at night, but the people around you who make you laugh, cry, dance… 

Each year, seniors and postgraduates at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.

Throughout the 2018-19 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.  

Home. a noun used to describe a place where one permanently lives. A noun I have not been able to categorize in my life. A building with four walls was not a permanent installation in my life; even the ideology of a home was a fantasy.

I lived the first four years of my life in a house where my childhood was almost like in the movies. It was the house where I had my first birthday party and where my dad taught me how to draw. The place where I screamed for joy when they brought home a 6 lbs baby boy after being in the hospital for 2 months. One day we moved to a bigger house where I had a bigger room all by myself and in that moment I believed I was home. I learned right from wrong  and my obstacles were something I did not yet face alone. I had been blessed with a mother and father who loved me and provided me the opportunity to become the best version of myself.

Then one day we had a robbery.

Not the typical robbery of jewelry , money and televisions  - but the theft of my father and best friend.

One day, cancer came into our household. Suddenly, that house with the big room no longer felt like home. This ugly disease soon became the thing that consumed our lives. So then again we moved, into a big building where my roommates were patients and my friends were the nurses. After school every day I went home to this building that always smelled like hand sanitizer and slept on the big sofa bed with my brother every night. This became our home and I was okay with it, as long as we were together.

I believed there was no way that God would take away the positive light in so many people’s lives away from such a dark world. But one day our home became flooded with tears as every family member crammed into my room. On August, 3rd, 2013 my best friend took his last breath from multiple myeloma. The doctors called it a common form of cancer, and it had taken the most uncommon man I knew.

And with that we moved. Again.

The place where I had spent the last three years just became a memory attached with the pain of loss. We went back to the big house with my big room but without the laughter of my dad and the singing that would echo throughout the house the room felt small.  

As buckets of food were sent to our house my mom smiled and hugged the crying guests even though the pain was supposed to be her own. This inspired me to be stronger but I was still a mess and although Baraka was also in pain he always made the effort to make me laugh. This gave me hope that maybe this big house might feel like the home I’d imagined. But then again I was mistaken.

My mother decided to send my brother and me to boarding school. At first, I felt abandoned. Leaving that house felt like a punishment. Looking back, it seemed every time I ever started to feel at home, that security was ripped away.

So I moved again. I made Shattuck a place to focus. I had come to terms with the fact that I will never be home, that having a home is just a dream and on contrary to belief this one would not come true.

So I closed myself off. But something kept pushing back. I moved into my big room which I’d now be sharing and met a girl that embraced my crazy as we screamed over school and boys. And with her came another girl who saw the good in everyone and helped me find it in myself.  A best friend who keeps me humble at every corner. And a girl who won’t let me forget that I set off the fire alarm. A group of boys who showed me the joy of constant laughter even through they say I’m still “not valid”. And lastly, teachers who believed in me and push me to want more for myself. Together they made this crazy old building, this Hogwarts straight out of Harry Potter, feel like home.

Today I stand here on this stage telling the story of my life but what I want everyone to know is that, a home is not always represented by the four walls that surround you at night, but the people around you who make you laugh, cry, dance and call you sherm every single day. Thank you to those people all across the globe that have shaped me into the person I am, and allowed me to embrace my crazy. I am forever thankful for each and everyone of you.

And mom thank you for pushing me to be great I love you and I am forever grateful for your strength every day. I have finally learned that Home is where the heart is.

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