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A Breeze of Four Years - SAS Puxi Valedictorian Speech

June, 2013
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I feel so fortunate.

If people ask me about high school, I find myself saying that it is a breeze of four years. I tend to gloss over the painful parts, even though it really hasn’t been that easy.

I wonder why though. I had a middle school counselor who was convinced that bad memories are permanent, and the good just jumble together and then disappear. I believed him for a while. But then I realized that every year held its new set of challenges, and everything else that preceded them paled in comparison. There is no lasting bad memory that I dwell on now, because I would inevitably meet an orc larger and more grueling to slay than before.

It’s that spirit; a gradual realization that the worst is yet to come, that aids me in coping with a fear of the unknown. That’s why I always had a fascination in writing letters to my future self. I can dream of what I’ll be doing, but my future self remains reticent about why he has a frown.

Take my music for example. I remember four years ago not even able to write a complete piece. Christopher Tin, composer of Civilization IV’s theme song Baba Yetu, recommends student composers to throw away the first ten pieces they write. For me, that number is closer to twenty. And yet, on my twenty-first piece dolphin song, the very place where I poured my heart out on staff paper, I faced a more menacing orc in battle. I kept asking myself, “Am I being sincere enough?” My younger self would have envied my dolphin song, but not my anxieties during its creative process.

Outside of music, it’s no different. Throughout high school, carefreeness becomes no more than a wistful dream. I agree that teenage years are the messiest for some of us. I faced many obstructions, including personal insecurities. And it’s because I glimpsed what will continue being our pitfalls later on, that the past tastes sweeter in comparison. My mind becomes convinced that stress from high school had been manageable, growth as an aspiring composer had been easy, and things had worked themselves out neatly. Yeah right.

Then I learnt not to worry too much. I actually find it comforting that tomorrow’s pile of dung that’ll be flung at me is always smellier and richer in color. In other words, I try not to whine, and instead follow the sage advice of my father, “shit happens.” It’s not as perverse as it sounds.

No matter where we are, we’ll always have a few devils lurking deep down inside. It’s something difficult to reflect upon, especially when we have been in such a celebratory mood for the past months. When we, the Class of Twenty-Thirteen, head off in different directions, this train of thought can keep us sane and allow us to enjoy the present, whether it is peering into the night sky with an observatory telescope, or singing with a velvety voice in an a cappella group. Ultimately, we’ll have the self-will to move forward, even when we just stepped on dog crap and need to scrape it off the soles of our feet first.

We’ve been lucky enough to have the best high school experience we could hope for. It’s our dance with reality, and we finally start to hear the syncopation in our footwork.

Thank you to my parents, my extended family, my teachers and mentors, my fellow students, and everyone else who knows me for shaping me into the person I am. You all have been a kind audience; in life, in music, and now on Graduation Day. Best wishes to the rest of our class, and good luck to the rising seniors, juniors, and sophomores!

Thank you!

Sunday, June 2 2013 

by Sam Wu, Shanghai American School, Puxi Campus    


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