Senior Speeches: Amanda Cooper

September 01, 2017


“So, if like me, your career dreams are not typical, you have a choice to make. You can do what others expect, get your degree in something that guarantees work, have a job right out of college, work your shifts and only dream of what could have been. Or, you can do something else.”

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.

Throughout the 2017-18 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.

Amanda Cooper

“I love to be here onstage. I’m used to spending time here, looking into the crowd, and feeling the lights shining down. I’ve been spending time onstage since I was in elementary school, and when I was little, I would tell people I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. The adults would smile and say, “How nice!” the way adults do when a child says she’d like to be a ballerina, astronaut, or president. However, as I got older and my dream was still acting, people’s reactions changed. I mostly heard an “Oh…wow.” People would get concerned looks on their faces and ask if I was sure that was what I wanted to do. I knew what they really meant. “Isn’t that a bit unrealistic? So you want to be a waitress your whole life? Why don’t you choose a practical career? You know you’ll never make a living like that.” I was embarrassed to tell anyone my dream.

“Now, when I tell people I want to major in theater in college, I’m quick to add a double major in history. I know why people are relieved. They think, “Good,  you’ll have a backup plan when you don’t make it as an actress.” Like a history degree is somehow going to guarantee me a job.

“Look, I know I’m weird. I know that acting is a crazy dream and I know I sound nuts for wanting to perform in front of people every day of my life. Who wants to put themselves through the stress of auditioning, ten-hour rehearsals, and an insane work schedule? Well, I guess I do. I don’t want to work in an office. I want to spend my life on a stage, I want to spend my days running lines, and I want to stay up late performing seven days a week. I know I want to do that, but I know it is unlikely. Some days even I don’t believe that I can make it. I have a crazy dream that will take me down a crazy path.      

“So, if like me, your career dreams are not typical, you have a choice to make. You can do what others expect, get your degree in something that guarantees work, have a job right out of college, work your shifts and only dream of what could have been. Or, you can do something else. If you have a crazy dream, when people ask what you are going to do with your life, tell them about it. Even if you have a non-crazy dream like becoming a great lawyer or your dream is to climb a mountain in your free time, tell everyone. Tell them you want to go to Mars, engineer a duck-otter hybrid to see if it looks like a platypus, or grow the world’s largest potato. If you tell them your dreams of athletic stardom and they say, “Your career will be over in ten years,” who cares? You will have spent ten years living your dream. Do everything you can to reach your dream, even if that means you wait tables for twenty years until it is your turn to step into the spotlight. Work so hard until the only option is being able to do what you love. This is what I will do. I won’t do anything else because nothing else would feel right. If I didn’t follow my dream, I would never be satisfied because it would not be true to who I am. I know I am not pursuing a career, I am chasing a chance to be who I am, do what I love, and a chance at lifelong happiness. So, love whatever dream you have, whether it is rock-climbing on the weekend, curing cancer, or spending all your time onstage. Love it because you know you are right where you belong.”      

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