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.
My parents did a good job raising me. They did all the right things. They taught me the basics, such as being kind and working hard. Most people do those things, at least to some extent. I’m not giving a speech about how the simple things in my life have shaped who I am today, because they haven’t had much of an effect. I have been shaped much more by struggle. More specifically, by witnessing someone I love struggle. Genetically, I am 50 percent my father, but he has influenced me much more than that.
My father was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, when I was about eight years old. MS is a disease that damages the nervous system, which means the brain can’t send signals properly throughout the body. My father’s unfortunate illness affected me in small ways. My dad couldn’t play soccer in the backyard with me anymore, and many times he would be too tired to take me to see a late-night movie. For my dad himself, it was much harder. Simple tasks, such as signing his own name, became hard because of the decline in his fine motor skills. His body has a hard time regulating body temperature, so he may get chills in the middle of summer, or it may be much too hot for him to go outside on a mild day. Sometimes he can’t sleep because he is in so much pain, and sometimes he has to sleep all day because he is so tired.
However, this disease has only made a small dent in his armor. I never told anyone this, but I was worried that my dad would change who he was and become unhappy. I was very wrong to underestimate my father’s strength.
My dad has stayed positive throughout this whole hardship, and he continues to defy the disease that wants him to give in. Nobody would have blamed him for becoming angry with life, but instead he uses his energy to continue to bring joy to me and our family.
Over Christmas break, we went bowling as a family. Nobody thought that my dad was going to play. He proceeded to rent a pair of shoes for everyone, and he beat my older brother in both games. Although my dad said that it was a small feat to win against my brother, it was cool to see my dad not only refusing to surrender to MS but also showing me how to handle adversity with strength and love. There is beauty in life’s struggle, so keep fighting and don’t let anything or anyone limit you. Finally, when life gets tough, stay positive and focus on your blessings.
Although my dad’s diagnosis with MS was an unexpected and unfortunate event, I am very thankful for how my dad has gone about the situation and I am so lucky to have him in my life. He has taught me so much, not by telling me how to act, but by showing me. Witnessing his immense strength each and every day is so inspiring, and I believe it is proof that we as humans have no limits. Thank you, dad, for being an inspiration to me and our family, and thank you for making me a better person. I love you.