We are all here today to honor the twelve years we’ve spent together—the successes, the failures, the memories. I stand here before you today not as your valedictorian but as a friend. We may not all have the same grade point average, but we are all still valedictorians.
That’s something I just only recently learned. After finding out that my life would be changed forever after this speech made me realize so much more, notice the simplest things in life that nobody else had ever seen. Sometimes the truest things are the ones that we can’t see.
And grades don’t define your life or tell you how to find your future; they’re the easiest statistics to manipulate. We look at grades to tell us how intelligent we are, but all we’re doing is tricking ourselves. This game is tricky: the ones who cheat can win and the ones who study the hardest can lose. It’s nature, and it’s the one thing we can no longer trust.
I know I’m the valedictorian and I’m supposed to appreciate the amount of effort I’ve put in the past four years to get to this point, but I have to be completely honest with you: my main focus was never acing a test or taking the most rigorous classes. There’s so much more to this world than your grade point average, and not all of you realize that yet. But you will. Soon.
Because of what recently happened to me, I started noticing the flaws with my surroundings. While we were all worried about boosting our grades and our future, I read in the news about people who were still stuck in the past—pain, miserable, cold. Children in Africa were starving to death because people were too distracted to even glance in their direction. Attacks broke out in Iran because civilians lost their voice when a gun was pointed at their head. Lives were being dispensed while we carried on in our bubble of oblivion, not caring or seeing the truth about the future.
We were oblivious, but another thing I learned was that everything happens for a reason, which is why I’m confused. Is there a reason why these children should be starving or innocent people should be tortured and massacred? Is there a reason why we choose to ignore these people, why we do nothing to fix what’s right in front of us? Is there a reason why we’re all sitting here today, listening to me give a speech about how all of our hard work doesn’t matter? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s Fate.
Maybe Fate is the reason why I’m standing here at this podium. Maybe I’m just lucky.
Despite these maybes, my goal is to help, help everyone in this room to go after what they want. You can still work for your dream, but you can’t fall apart when you don’t reach it. Your world isn’t over unless you’re dead. And trust me; you’ve got years to live before that happens.
But still notice and recognize the little things in life, the things that go missing from right in front of your eye. Appreciate what’s in front of you now, because if you dive head first into the future, you will be miserable in the present. So tomorrow, I want you to forget about what’s going to happen after college. Take a walk and notice the things around you: the smell of bread from the bakery that the store owner worked hard at baking, the touch of sun droplets warming your skin because there may be that day when it won’t be there anymore, or the voice of the bells of Salvation Army calling to you for help.
The future is always changing and the only that that is changing it is the present. So focus on the present and cherish every moment, because you will never see it again.
My hand is trembling as it grips tight onto my speech. Dr. Farhan said that I should write it out anyway, even if I didn’t get the chance to read it. It was supposed to help me value my hard work and successes over the past few years. But it doesn’t matter, because I am walking into my death bed.
I looked up at myself in the foggy mirror and cringed. I lost hope. The chemotherapy didn’t help me at all and I neglected to take any more pills. My cheeks never blush red anymore and my eyes turned a solemn green after the bad news. I shrugged my jacket on, noticing the sharp angles of my collar bone poking out underneath the warm colors of my shirt, the opposite of how I feel now.
I turn around to see Mom with a wig in her hand. “It’s time to go.” She slips the wig onto my head and brushes it out over my shoulders.
“Do you think I’m going to make it?”
She looks at my hand, my fingers turning pink on the paper. “Of course. You’ll give the speech and then go to Princeton like we’ve always wanted you to.”
“Tell the truth.” My eyes are cold and hard as I stare at her.
She kisses me on the forehead and I could feel tears dripping onto my nose. “It’s going to be OK.” She leans back and wipes her tears, resting her hand on my back. “Let’s go. Dr. Farhan has news for us.”
She leads me out of my room, but I pause to tear the speech into shreds. I walk over to the trashcan next to my bedside and dunk it. I had no use for it anymore.