Valedictorian Address Sara DiCostanzo

It’s unbelievable to me that I’m standing here today as valedictorian, considering that I have spent so much of this year feeling like a complete idiot. This feeling first began to flourish in my calc class, as I spent the first few weeks of school absolutely bewildered, completely lost as the curriculum seemed to fly past me. Each class, I would frantically scribble down the notes, not processing a single word, then go home, and stare at the gibberish I had written, trying to make sense of it. I studied and studied, spent far too many hours sobbing over Khan Academy, growing increasingly terrified as I awaited the first test. When it finally arrived, I, who had never gotten a grade below a ninety, received a C. The night before that test, I had also submitted my first English essay. In plusportals, another C awaited me.

I want to clarify that these are not bad grades. But to me, they embodied all the confusion and distress I had been feeling, so, as a result, they felt catastrophic. I was trying as hard as I always had, yet I couldn’t understand the material. I spiraled. I wondered how I could possibly survive the year. I thought immediately that I was too stupid for these advanced classes, and that I committed an incredible act of hubris to even for a second think that I wasn’t. I felt like a failure. It was not even October of senior year, the supposed best year of high school, and I had nothing to show for it but two C’s and an incredible feeling of worthlessness.

Yet I couldn’t quit. The only thing worse than failing to understand would be surrender to the defeat, drowning in my confusion rather than swimming back to shore. So I kept studying. I poured my soul into those classes, and eventually, my confusion began to dissipate, my muddied understanding became clear, and I began to enjoy my classes again. The initial failure I felt incited me to study harder, to learn more than I thought I could. The classes were challenging, yet they were also the most rewarding.

Failure is oftentimes the evidence that we have pushed ourselves beyond what we thought we could do, that we have reached past what we think we’re capable of. It is the proof that we have taken a risk, that we have embarked beyond the shores of what is comfortable to us and into the sea of the unknown. In essence, failure is the proof that we have lived our lives.

Our experience at RMHS has prepared us to live our lives in the best way possible. So many people in this room have helped us get to where we are: administration, class advisors, the teachers, the family who have encouraged us and adapted in the past two years to support us, no matter what was going on in the outside world. And, of course, our peers, who have traversed these halls with us, shared laughs and admittedly many tears, successes and more importantly, failures, which we have endured and overcome together. Every moment at this high school has shaped who we are. Though there have been both ups and downs, both joys and pains, we have survived them, and our lives are richer, more vibrant because of them. During our time at RMHS, we have all been given the tools to build beautiful, impactful lives. The only thing we have to do is step out and live them.

There’s this one song I am quite fond of, and I often listen to it around this time of year, when I get all nostalgic about the end of the school year and time passing. I have cried to it several times in the past week. It’s called “I Lived” by OneRepublic, and it encapsulates everything I hoped to be true about our high school experiences. One of the lines says , “Hope that you fall in love/And it hurts so bad/The only way you can know/You give it all you have.” These lyrics tell us to give every moment in our lives our all. It tells us that life will be painful, and that things won’t work out, but we aren’t truly living until we feel that pain alongside the joy. The lyrics culminate when they say, “with every broken bone, I swear I lived.” We will all be hurt at some point in life. We will break bones, promises, hearts. We will fail tests and the people we love. But each of these moments are proof that we have lived our lives to the fullest. That we have experienced what the world has offered, and that we are better off because of it.

Every single person in this class is capable of incredible, amazing things, if we are only courageous enough to go out and seek them. If only we let go of the fear that we may fail, and instead leap headfirst into the experiences that await us beyond these walls. As we leave high school, we will depart from this path that we have all walked together, and though we will each go on to different things, we are all going out into the world, to experience the full range of what life has to offer. I can only hope that when we look back, we will have smiles on our faces, and we will all be able to say, happily, that we lived. Congratulations class of 2022!

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