Senior Speeches: Payton Sender

October 10, 2017


“The most important aspect of life is whether or not you’re enjoying it. Your happiness and doing what you love is crucial.”

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.

Payton Sender

“Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves.

“Last year was the hardest year of my life. Classes were tough, there was the inevitable drama with friends. But the most difficult thing to deal with was the passing of my grandfather. He was a great man, always having a good time with friends and family, making the most of anything he was given. Every moment I spent with him was full of laughter and adventure, and I could probably spend an hour telling those stories.

“At Christmas, we would visit him and my grandmother just up the road in Farmington. We’d open our presents and have fights with the bunched-up wrapping paper. My dad and my uncle both played hockey, and Grandpa always supported them as kids. When I started playing, he’d come to my hockey games, too. He’d always get so involved in the action that my Grandma got him a referee jersey. After school, I’d go over to my grandparents’ house. We’d sit at the dining room table and talk about life or catch some NASCAR on TV. He was the funniest and most caring man I ever met.

“The loss of him hit me like a tidal wave. I had never lost anyone so close to me, and I wasn’t really sure how to react. It was a strange feeling, one that I can’t necessarily describe. I was sad, of course, but it was almost a numbing feeling. With the people in my life, I let on that I was okay and getting through it, but deep down this weird feeling festered.

“As I lay in bed at night, I wondered when I would start to feel okay again. I honestly couldn’t see it happening. I thought about people I knew who’d survived similar losses and even worse, but I couldn’t imagine how they did it. There I was, just going through the motions of my life with not much motivation.

“Soon after my grandpa died, we started reading Into the Wild in AP Lang. That’s a book about a young man who went to live an adventurous life, who wanted to find himself in the world. In the end, he went too far and lost his life. But in his story of getting lost and finding himself, I get a sense of inspiration. I don’t want to live his story, but I admire his spirit of adventure.

“That book opened my eyes to how beautiful the world is. I realized that I didn’t want to be lost anymore, and so I found myself. I learned that the most important aspect of life is happiness. I had a newfound hope. I dreamt of the beautiful places around the world that I wanted to step foot on, specifically the western United States, Thailand, and Australia. I thought of the amazing landmarks I’d see, as well as the incredible people and cultures I would encounter along the way. I also saw myself attending college, experiencing all that there is to learn while moving away to somewhere completely new. I imagined myself once again doing the things that make me happy.

“I think my Grandpa would want me to follow my dreams. I picture him somewhere up there, in his referee jersey, cheering me on.

“The most important aspect of life is whether or not you’re enjoying it. Your happiness and doing what you love is crucial. I want to travel to unknown destinations, taste new foods, take up a new hobby because having the courage to do these things will make me stronger as a person, and, one way or another, those experiences will enlighten me.

“Finally, I came to the realization that I’m a lot stronger than I originally thought. I was able to overcome that feeling of being lost with the aspirations for the future I really wanted. It’s crazy how powerful a single thread of hope really can be.

“Now I’m discovering both the world around me and myself. I have yet to fulfill my dreams, but just the possibility makes me so joyful. I’m still figuring out who I’m supposed to be and what my purpose in this world is, but I know I want to do what makes me happy while spending time with the people I love.

“Thank you.”

  • News Image