It seems as though merely a few moments ago we were the freshmen roaming around during orientation. Eager to embark on our four-year journey, we chanted “2018!” repeatedly when [Principal] Kaplan asked us what year we’d graduate. A time that seemed so far away in that moment has finally arrived. At the beginning of it all it seemed like a marathon, but now that it’s here, we find ourselves sprinting toward the finish line, which we will all cross in a few moments.
It will come as no surprise to most of you that I use running as a metaphor, as most of you have come to know me as an avid runner. Runners will tell you that competing gives the largest thrill imaginable. We thrive off of the adrenaline. We can get a little carried away by our successes that it becomes easy to forget that bad races exist.
In the beginning of my senior year, I set a high goal for myself: I wanted to break 18 minutes in a 5000m race. For those who don’t know “track talk,” that’s 5:47.29 minutes per mile for 3.1 miles. I put in the summer miles, training 40 to 50 miles a week and often times doubling and running two times a day just to hit the mileage. But at our county meet, I collapsed about two miles into the race and was down for about a minute before my mind realized if I didn’t finish, our team would not qualify for the subsequent race. In a race I had been looking to win, I came in 15th, and was later hospitalized.
At this point in the season, I truly thought I was done. My teammates, however, had different ideas. Two days later, I was back training with them again. Their endless encouragement and belief in our training gave me the strength and courage that I lacked in that moment to continue to run, both that season and the next one. Every time I felt as if my career was coming to a close, everyone was there to pick me up.
In the next four years and beyond, we’ll fail tests, lose friendships and question if we made the right decisions. In times such as these, I ask that you remind yourself of the end goals. Is it happiness? Success? Affluence? In the grand scheme of things, that one class you failed in college will be negligible. That one time you didn’t come up on top? It won’t affect you in the long run. If it won’t affect you in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes worrying about it. There are things in this world that will always be out of our control. We can, however, control who we surround ourselves with. In choosing to surround myself with admittedly phenomenal coaches and a supportive group of friends and teammates, I’ve learned to get up when it seems as though all the air is escaping from my lungs, and what it means to persevere through what seems like an opportunity to give up.
It’s just like the lacrosse game play you practiced repeatedly to get right, and that math course you took and went to Bonvo’s extra help for 10 hours, making him late to practice. It’s the hours of work you put into creating the yearbook and developing an award-winning science research project. Laboring over numerous pieces of art and lines of computer code, we’ve all experienced high school differently, and yet, the lessons learned are our common denominator. We’ve garnered the ability to persevere through adversity and to channel indomitable will.
I ask you to climb every mountain, and to swim every ocean the world throws in your direction. You are stronger than a small complication. You have the willpower it takes. Know what it takes to accomplish your goals, and know that you have what it takes to make them happen. Surround yourself with those who encourage you and who give you hope in times of need. Find the group of people who will support you unconditionally, and those who will believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself. In the moment, it may be difficult to embrace difficulties, but it’s our obstacles as much as our successes that have molded us into who we are today and have pulled us into different directions as we embark on a journey I’m not sure I’m ready for.
I may not have been All American and may not have broken 18 minutes in that 5000m race. But if there is one thing I learned from my high school running career, it’s that these races are all part of a bigger picture. Each performance is one of many in your career, and though at times the stakes are higher, not one performance defines you. The perseverance and bravery you obtain from consistently challenging yourself are what separate you from the rest of the crowd.
We will have the rest of our lives to become All Americans, to get our research published and to gather our accolades and accomplishments. With our goal-oriented minds and our lasting impacts on each other, we can find “another gear” and kick to the finish.