Senior Speeches: The Importance of Pressing Pause

January 31, 2017


“Nothing has been as impactful for me as learning to be content — with my life, where I am, what I’m doing, what I have, who I’m with, and who I am.”

Each year, seniors 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.

Periodically throughout the 2016-2017 school year, we will share excerpts of those speeches with the SSM community, and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.


“For a long time, I was obsessed with reaching a certain standard and being able to cross everything off in my planner, sacrificing time and memories I could’ve made, all for a better grade or stronger resume. I was unhappy with who I was, always worried I was falling behind. I used to work out and study at all hours of the night, fearing someone else was outworking me.  

It’s easy to get lost in ambition and accomplishment, but that path in itself may not make a meaningful life. Nothing has been as impactful for me as learning to be content — with my life, where I am, what I’m doing, what I have, who I’m with, and who I am.

My time at this school and in my life is limited, and I’m not going to waste it living someone else’s life. It’s easy for me to press the fast forward button, but it takes courage to first press pause. I want to be present and open to the moment that is unfolding before me. Because, ultimately, my life is made up of moments that can’t be color-coded or transcribed into a planner, moments I don’t want to miss by being lost in the past or anticipating the future.”

- Rachel Collins

“I realized the conflict I experienced regarding my identity went far beyond my citizenship. As an athlete going to this school, I defied expectations by facilitating a fashion show, being in a middle school play, and taking too many AP classes. I came to understand that my life outside the rink does not diminish my love for hockey, and that I am not happy despite the dichotomy dominating my life, but instead because of it. Just like the great Walt Whitman, “I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes,” and I wouldn’t have it be any other way.   

A couple months ago, this is where my story ended. I hit enter and looked back, happy with my college essay. But now things are different. If somebody had told me, not even two months ago, that I wouldn’t be playing hockey in college, I would’ve laughed in their faces. But for better or worse, that’s how things have turned out.

Despite this, I don’t regret a thing about these past four years at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Being a weird kid, I would have been an easy target for bullying, and in fact that’s what exactly happened in middle school. Instead, here I experienced nothing but love and kindness from my teammates, my teachers, and the people I slowly grew to know as ‘friends.’”

- Valentina Larchenko

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    Ben White