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.
“Thank you, Mrs. Schroeder, for that kind introduction.
“Has there ever been a time when you weren’t able to really be yourself? When you didn’t have the confidence to be the person you really are?
“I am an outgoing young woman who never stops talking. When I decided to come to Shattuck, I thought starting my life over again in a remote, foreign town would be easy. I was thrilled by the whole idea of coming abroad to study, making friends from around the world, and learning something foreign and cool.
“However, before the rainbow, there must be rain. During my first few months here, I turned into the one who ate lunch in absolute silence, whispered in choir, and sat in the back corner of the World History classroom. I tried to speak out as I used to, but every single word took an infinite amount of courage. It wasn’t because of the language, but the culture and activities here were so different. I’ll never forget the trivia game we played during the Singing Hills trip. I had no idea what was going on except for the math questions. I had no idea about American TV shows or childhood games, and it made me perplexed coming from a totally different background.
“Soon, homesickness overwhelmed me. I missed my parents, how their care covered every single detail of my life, how the spicy hot pot is cooked, and how I got the references and slang words and culture back home so well.
“That first year, I went home during breaks, and it was absolutely painful when break ended and I had to drag my footsteps out of the doorway and make the journey thousands of miles away from home. The lines through customs and security in the Chengdu airport seemed endless, like the two lines of tears on my cheeks. Once I made the turn and headed towards the gate, I had to swallow my tears, knowing there was no going back. My first year here, I was lost.
“But in time, as Shattuck began to feel more like home, I realized I could be myself more and more. Gradually, I had enough of hiding in the corner and acting like an outsider. I couldn’t hide my inborn nature of being talkative. Even though I was still shy, I never stopped trying to share my opinions with my peers, singing louder in choir, or speaking out more in class. As time passed, things started to get better. I realized that, even though I’m in an entirely new environment, I am still myself. My confidence returned, and I really began to feel here is where I belong, with people who appreciate and care about me.
“One place where I could really be myself was here, on this stage. From Spelling Bee with my Vocal Performance peers during Fall Family Weekend to Liesl in Sound of Music with my Von Trapp family, I made progress little by little and felt that I was part of those groups, part of this community, part of this family. When something new came along, I found the courage to give it a try. And now, here I am fearlessly giving this speech (okay, I’m still nervous–just a little bit).
“Last year in choir, we played a game. Each of us wrote something about ourselves on an unsigned sticky note and put all the sticky notes into a box. Then we’d pull one out and try to figure out who had written it. I wrote, “I used to be quiet.” When my sticky note was drawn from the box, none of my choir peers guessed me. They had no idea I had ever been any different than the Nancy I am today.
“All the tears and all the laughter of my time here are deeply rooted in my memory. I appreciate everyone who has come into in my life; teachers, mentors, friends, and even the people who don’t like me so much. You have all helped me to take a chance on being myself. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true!
“So, even though you might be timid and struggling today, things can be totally different tomorrow - just try!”