When I was procrastinating writing this speech, I stumbled upon a meme: Do caterpillars know what they’re doing when they build a cocoon or do they just do it instinctively and be like, “What on earth am I doing?”
As I spent the next four hours trying to wrap my head around that, I realized how similar humans, especially students, are to caterpillars.
None of us truly know what we’re doing. We follow the motions of life, mimic our peers, listen to our parents and try our hardest to figure out who we are. We do our best to prepare ourselves for the next stage in life, when we leave our zones of comfort to bigger and better things. In that sense, high school is that cocoon, teaching and giving us the necessary transformation from adolescent to adult that allows us to fly.
The most important of these lessons Great Neck South has taught me is how to deal with setbacks. In life, things rarely if ever go your way, so it’s important to learn how to rebound, for your sanity’s sake. In the grand scheme of things, we won’t remember most of the stuff that seems important to us at the time. In 10 years from now, even one, do you think you’ll remember when you failed Mr. Dickson’s math test or when you didn’t win that Key Club vice president election? What you’ll remember instead are the people and friendships you met and formed in high school, and the memories you made with them. And at Great Neck South, there were a lot of those—the diversity of our student body meant that for every characteristic of your personality, there were student groups and activities that share the same interests.
So when you walk down the halls 25 years from now, returning from Chicago, China or Europe for your high school reunion, what you’ll remember is how this school, whether we knew what we were doing or not, was our cocoon that set us to the real world, free to fly.
Read the complete graduation speeches from the Great Neck North Class of 2017: Yunyi (Anita) Zhang and Zachary Lee, and from Great Neck South: Rachel Brenner, Isabella Harnick, Isabella Malfi, Benjamin Newman, Joshua Putter, Shrinath Viswanathan and Melody Yang.
Learn about the 2017 valedictorians and salutatorians here.