Senior Speeches: Isabelle Congdon

May 23, 2018

Here are four things I have learned in high school.

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.

Here are four things I have learned in high school.

Number one: How other people think of me is not my business.  

When I was in eighth grade, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, a condition where the spine is deformed and curves like an S. My case wasn’t bad enough to need reconstructive surgery. But starting at age thirteen, I had to wear a hard plastic brace that stretched from my hips to my collarbones for 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 3 years. My thirteen- year-old self was convinced that my life was over. I wore huge sweatshirts, even in the summer, just to avoid the stares I got from people. But no matter what I wore, the brace still was visible. I cared so much about how other people saw me that I preferred not to be seen at all. I missed out on a lot, and my self-esteem plummeted. Now I know that the more we worry about how others think of us, the further we drift from happiness. I wore a brace to avoid spine reconstruction, and if anyone judged me for that, it was not my problem. We may get strange looks, but how other people think of us is none of our business.

Lesson number two: I am not afraid of change.

I am afraid of many things. But coming to a new school my senior year taught me that change isn’t one of them. Most teenagers wouldn’t want to leave all their friends behind for their final year of high school, but I wanted something bigger for myself - something that my old school and life could not provide. Shattuck-St. Mary’s is giving me an extra boost up to where I want to be. If I am scared, then I must be doing something right because nothing great is ever accomplished without uncertainty. It’s okay to be scared, but we should never be afraid of change.

Lesson number three: Be aware of your perspective.

Synesthesia is the involuntary blending of senses. When my music teacher asked me to describe a melody, I responded with a series of colors. The perplexity on her face told me something was off. I didn’t know hearing colors was unusual. I often have a hard time explaining that I can hear colors because people are stuck with the notion that you see colors and hear sounds. For me, the sound is the color.

Having Synesthesia has taught me to think about how other people experience the world. This world is not made up of one reality, is made up of eight billion different and unique perspectives. There is not always a simple or clear answer to the questions we ask. We need to read between the lines, think outside the box, and try to hear the colors in music. The more we try to see the world through other people’s eyes, the better a place it will be.

Lesson number four: I will never settle for anything less than what I believe I can achieve.

There is something about being in a place like this that makes me want to be a better person. Some say it’s Mr. Blackmer’s cameras, but I think it’s the amazing amount of passion that everyone carries for their sport or art or course work. We attack school and practice every day until we collapse, and look forward to doing it all again. We should never settle for a life we do not want to live. It is up to us to create own success or demise.

I am eternally grateful for the lessons these past four years have taught me and the people I have met along the way. Congratulations class of 2018. We did it!


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