Nobody’s Valedictorian


I have an embarrassingly mediocre grade point average, a shockingly low interest in school politics, and a cobweb filled trophy case. What does this mean? I’m officially out of the running to give a speech at my high school graduation… And it just so happens to make my blood boil. Strange right? The woman with little to no interest in school has a fervent urge to deliver the farewell address to her 500 classmates. Here’s why: something I do have? The ability to form a jumble of words together into something that just makes sense. I apologize for my cockiness, but it would be for the greater good! Growing up on coming-of-age movies I have a bachelor’s degree in striking speeches. Some of my personal favorites? Beanie Feldstein in Booksmart, Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, and the letter left by everybody’s favorite gaggle of misfits, The Breakfast Club. Dynamic people with dynamic things to say.  I think you know where I’m going with this…  As my final piece for the Palmetto & Pine, and my farewell to St. Petersburg High School, I’m going to give you MY version of a graduation speech.

Start of Speech. Buckle up.

Good Afternoon classmates, families, and esteemed faculty who either loved me or won’t  feel too badly about not seeing me frolicking through the halls any longer. You are all gathered here today to cheer, cry, and celebrate the chaos that is the St. Petersburg High School class of 2022.

 You might not be able to tell, seeing as we are all twinning in the same green fashions but we’ve got a lot of variety in this class. All different kinds of backgrounds, sexualities, political views, and religions. The one thing however that we can all agree on? High school is a mess! Four years enveloped with whispers in hallways, strangely scented parties, romantic conundrums, self-discovery, and asking yourself “Wait did we have homework last night?”

 There are a million sayings and helpful anecdotes that I want to pack into this speech. For example, channel your inner Harry Styles and Treat People With Kindness. Or define what success means to you. Maybe it looks like that guy from The Wolf of Wall Street, perhaps it’s becoming president, it could even mean living like an aimless vagabond in a van on the side of the road somewhere. The most important thing that I wish to leave with you, even though I am nobody’s valedictorian, is to live your life with authenticity. Be so inherently you that it scares people. 

Be who you want. Do what you want. Wear what you want. Say what you want. Life means nothing if not lived honestly and freely.

 So my classmates, though you all mean something different to me and to each other. Best friends, enemies, boyfriends, girlfriends, ex-crushes, or even somebody you just spilled to on occasion when you’ve had a little too much truth serum. I wish you nothing but authentic happiness in the future.

 Get married and have a bunch of babies, live out your days peacefully in a shack with a plethora of cats, wear power suits and be a CEO of a big corporation, or win an Oscar and give a speech that drags on too long (unlike mine of course).

 We’ll mess up a million more times and have to jump through so many hoops that life will start to feel like a circus. But as long as you are living a custom made life, tailored perfectly to you, then everything is going according to plan my friend. 

End of Speech. 

I thank everyone that has played some sort of role in my life during these oh-so-formative years. Serving as the Arts & Entertainment editor for the revived Palmetto & Pine newspaper has been one of the greatest privileges and surprises of my life. High school has gifted me photo albums stuffed with pictures of nights I don’t remember and ones I won’t soon forget.