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.
When I was in kindergarten, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, “Happy.” She told me I didn’t understand the question, and I told her, “No, you don’t understand life.”
You see, when I was two, my parents got divorced. For the next ten years, they fought for custody of my brother and I resulting in me not having a father in my life. So my wanting to be truly happy seemed to be a perfectly good answer at the time.
When I was in 7th grade, I bonded with my music director Talia. She wanted me to sing a song for the fall concert and assigned me “In His Eyes” by Frank Wildhorn. When I got home, I wanted to hear what it sounded like. I found the song on Youtube, and when the song was over, I was in tears.
The lyrics show two women begging a man to love them. They sang, “In his eyes will I see beyond tomorrow. By looking in his eyes will I see beyond the sorrow that I feel.” At that point in my life, I was dealing with the fact that my stepfather had been sexually harassing me for the past three years. I was trying to speak out about it, but my brother was one of the only people to believe me. By the time I had to perform the song, I was terrified. My knees were shaking, my heart was pounding, but I was determined not to run off the stage. I was so quiet I had to use a microphone. After the performance my brother told me how proud he was of me. I learned that day that music was my way out from all the pain. I was able to take the pain and turn it into something beautiful.
When I was in 9th grade, my brother wanted to sing “The Prayer” by Carole Sager and David Foster. We rewrote the song so it worked for a base and a soprano. The lyrics talk about hope. The meaning behind the song is even though you’re apart, you will always be together in spirit. When we performed it, I was in tears. He was leaving for the military only a few days after our concert, and I would have to stand on my own. I didn’t know how to do that without him. He was my protector, my best friend. Because I was able to perform this with him I knew we were going to be okay even though we were hundreds of miles away from each other for the first time in our lives.
About halfway through my first year at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, I hit my lowest point. The only good thing I thought I had in my life was my boyfriend at the time. Then, he started verbally abusing me, physically abusing me and eventually he sexually assaulted me. I could barely function in or outside of school. Every time I tried to sing I would start to shake with fear and burst into tears. The one thing in life that I truly couldn’t live without, I wasn’t able to do. I felt like I lost my purpose in life.
When I finally got the strength to tell my brother about what happened over winter break, I was on the verge of giving up. I told him everything… how every time I tried to sing, I’d think of that man, and I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak… I just wanted to scream. I was so afraid he wasn’t going to believe me, but all he said was it’s going to be okay.
As I began to heal from the traumatic experience, I realized I wasn’t alone. Everything you’ve been through and everything that you’re going through doesn’t make your life uglier. No matter what you may think, you are not broken beyond repair. You can pick yourself up and learn from what’s happened and become a better person from it. You can wear your scars proudly like a badge of honor, as if to say, “Look at what I’ve been through, it’s made me who I am today.” I urge you, don’t be ashamed of what has happened to you, like I was for so long.
One song that I find singing every time I start feeling down is “Skin” by Sixx AM. This song explores the imperfections of individuals and brings light to the differences we have. The lead singer, James Michael, wants to show people that our ugliness or imperfections can be beautiful. To be proud of who you are and never change yourself for anyone.
I finally know the true meaning of love, and I am no longer fooled by what some men tried to convince me it was. Because of my friends, my family, and my music, I can finally paint my scars with gold. I hope you’ll do the same.