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One chapter ends, another begins

Editor’s Note: Today, The Daily Leader continues publication of area high school valedictorian and salutatorian graduation speeches. The following address is from Wesson Attendance Center Valedictorian Hannah McCormick.

 On the behalf of the senior class, I would like to thank the administration, teachers, school staff, and our parents, for putting up with us and for loving us all these years, and for teaching us a thing or two along the way about math, science, history, English, and most of all, life.

We don’t want to admit it sometimes, but we really don’t know everything, and there is no way we would have made it these past 13 years without your help and guidance. Your influence on our lives is unprecedented, and we thank you.

Here we are guys… we made it.

Was that just yesterday that a group of about 30 of us walked nervously through a tiny kindergartener-sized door into Mrs. Jenny’s class? Wasn’t it only yesterday that we grew butterflies in our science classes and fought over swings at recess? Did we really grow up overnight? Wow.

It is so hard to believe that we have made it to the day most of us have been anxiously awaiting since that very first day of kindergarten. We’re here. We did it. We’re graduating high school.

Kurt Vonnegut is quoted as having said, “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” I guess I say that simply because I know that some members of my class have the capacity, stubbornness and drive to one day do just that!

I’ve seen how opinionated some of us can be, and I can tell that this ceremony is definitely not the end for my class.

This is only the beginning of something much greater than we could have possibly dreamed of that first day when we started school. We live in an age where there are no impossibilities.

The world is your canvas, and you can paint your life into whatever kind of masterpiece you want it to be. Our world is huge, and you’ll never experience anything worthwhile if you confine yourself to one corner of it. You’ll never know who you are unless you push yourself past your limits and find out who you aren’t.

Find something you’re passionate about, hold onto it, and let it give meaning to who you are. The best people in this world are those who are crazy about something. Let your passion make you crazy. I challenge you to dive face first into this chaotic wonderful mess of a life and never to look back. Do things you never thought you were capable of doing. Go places you never thought your eyes would see.

Make your life a grand adventure, and while you’re on your way, find beauty and happiness in the simple joys of life.

Life is messy, it’s going to be hard sometimes, and there are going to be dark days, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. Don’t settle for something because it’s the safe way or the easy way.

After all, Grace Hopper said, “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” Risk it all…

I want you to live vivaciously, and I want all of your lives to mean more than what society deems to be success. Don’t be afraid to live, and don’t be afraid to leave because sometimes leaving is the only way to continue on your journey.

Sometimes leaving is like turning the last page of an adored chapter of a book; you have to move forward to find out what the rest of the story is like.

Now, we find ourselves at the end of this chapter, and it’s bittersweet. This chapter was wonderful, filled with sweet memories, friendships and loves, but it was only the first few pages of our story.

Maybe our stories will have a page where we’ll wake up one morning and realize a few of us are helping run the country, but unlike Vonnegut, that knowledge would bring me comfort, not terror.

Today is not a day to be sad because I can promise you this: if you live a life full of passion and love, if you devote yourself to a cause, and if you expand your horizons, the next chapters of your life will only get better as you turn the pages.

I wish you all the best of life and luck. In closing, I leave you with these words attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, “I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”