by Amelia Deering '17
When thinking about what I wanted to say today, I considered what shared experiences bring the Class of 2017 together. Over the past four years, we have all done unique and incredible things, but one activity we all have in common is watching a lot of Netflix. One show that got me through a lot this year was The Great British Baking Show, so I wanted to share with you all a little wisdom from my favorite baker on Season 3. Upon winning the final Bake Off, they said: "I am never going to put boundaries on me ever again. I'm never going to say 'I can't do it.' I am never going to say maybe. I am never going to say 'I don't think I can.' I can, and I will."
It is often said that a person is their own worst enemy, but I want to implore you all to be your own best friend. There are many people in your life who love you and are there for you, but you are the only person who is with you one hundred percent of the time. There may be people in the world who want to tell you you can't do something, but the only way they win is if you repeat those lies to yourself.
Too often we base our self-worth on small successes and failures. We generalize our shortcomings to encompass our whole selves, turning "I don't know the unit circle" into "I will never be good at math." That's a small example, but those little put-downs add up into a negative image of ourselves that makes it harder to succeed. Self-doubt, like Netflix addiction, is the shared burden of all adolescents, but as we move into adulthood we need to learn how to talk ourselves up. Our first instinct upon making a mistake is to criticise ourselves, but the truth is that you probably did the best you could and none of us really knows what we're doing anyway.
The prospect of going to college and starting a new life can be scary. After four-plus years of the same campus and people, everything changing so quickly and completely is very intimidating. As we move on from Elgin Academy, we are losing a security blanket. We won't be able to run into Mr. Raffety's office with every question and the friends we've come to depend on over so many years won't be there to hold our hands. Though each of us will certainly find new counselors and friends, when we arrive on campus we have to be our own support systems: we have to believe in ourselves and our ability to succeed.
I consider every member of the Class of 2017 to be my friend, and I know all of you are capable of greatness, but my faith in you is not enough. No one can convince you that you are interesting, intelligent, or worthy of love, because faith in yourself can only come from within. Believing in yourself despite setbacks and failures is hard work, but once you are certain of your abilities there is nothing you can't do.
Though, not being British, we will probably never win The Great British Baking Show, I ask you all to take its message to heart. Whatever your dream in life, whether it be perfect layers in a puff pastry or curing the world of disease, always remember: you can, and you will.
Lastly, no valedictory speech would be complete with a little valediction, so I wanted to say some special goodbyes and thank yous to the people who have made our time at Elgin Academy so special. To call out everyone by name would take more time than we have today, but to the all of our teachers both in the Upper School and beyond, thank you for guiding us down the right paths and supporting us in our dreams. I know our class wasn't always the easiest, but I speak for all of us when I say our teachers made us better people and got us where we are today.
To all of our families, if you are anything like my parents this is a very bittersweet time for you, full of both tearful lasts and enthusiastic dorm shopping. Though you may be scared of sending your babies into the big wide world, know that you have raised fantastic, capable young adults who can handle anything. Lastly, to my graduating class, words cannot describe the love I have for all of you. The thirty-eight of us are truly a family, and though this separation is painful I can't wait to see the amazing things all of us accomplish in this new chapter of our lives. Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2017!