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The final lines in the Oscar-nominated movie Boyhood were spoken by one of the main characters, who said:

“You know how everyone's always saying seize the moment? I don't know, I'm kind of thinking it's the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”

When I first watched Boyhood while it was in theaters, I remembered sitting in my chair as the credits rolled, fuming. Are you kidding me? This movie took 12 years to make. This movie took three hours out of my life and $9 out of my pocket, and that was the grande finale? Sorry, but it sounded more like one of those poorly crafted jokes about how “In Soviet Russia, moment seizes you!”

For some of us, graduation may feel like how I felt at the end of Boyhood. Four years in the making, or 30,000 hours of essays, projects, sports games, clubs, classes, tests, rehearsals, events... and today we take home a nice sheet of paper. Such an ordinary ending, to an experience that was, in my belief, rather extraordinary. Didn’t you think there’d be more? I certainly did.

Not to say that this ceremony, this tent isn’t extravagant or flattering enough for me. What I mean to say is: it is entirely expected, yet somehow still mind-numbing how relentlessly time moves forward. Things end and things begin. Year by year, even every four years, time doesn’t pause to turn around and congratulate you for your hard work. It neither cries for nor celebrates the past. We’re the ones who do that for ourselves, because for some reason, we need it.

So I suppose it is my job today to provide just that. I somehow have to make you feel feelings and think thoughts, something that our teachers have actually been trying to do for the past four years, and something that our parents clearly gave up on four years ago when they sent us here. Wish me luck.

The word “graduate” stems from the Latin “gradus,” which translates to “step.” Many would call high school an important step in your life. But I feel that our NMH high school experience distinguishes itself, because it has been made up of not one, but a rather large series of steps. Anyone who has had to go from the dining hall to the Lower Mod buildings will probably agree with me.

But, to take it less literally, NMH has given me the guidance and the support I’ve needed to achieve and to progress. If it weren’t for NMH’s many on-campus affinity groups, as well as diversity initiatives, I never would’ve understood the power of identity in our lives. If it weren’t for Janae Peters and Gary Partenheimer thoroughly rattling my worldview during Freshman Humanities, I might still be walking around with a big box of assumptions stuck on my head. If it hadn’t been for the mentorship of James Greenwood throughout almost all of my time here, I would certainly be missing a substantial amount of guidance. And if it hadn’t been for debate team as well as David Dowdy’s speech class, I probably wouldn’t be up here, speaking right now.

I can thus begin, but cannot finish, naming the staff, faculty, and opportunities here that I am so enormously grateful for. In big and small steps, in increments, in moments, NMH has changed me -- as well as all of us -- in significant ways. Sometimes, it felt like we were seizing those moments. I remember the exhilaration and nervousness of trying out for my first sports team (which I didn’t make, but still). I remember planning and teaching my first workshop on Diversity Day. I remember going on picnics with my friends, watching the sunrise at the dock, and stargazing when the night skies were clear. I remember reading aloud my first poem. Those were the times I felt alive, and blessed, and free. Other times, it felt more like the moments were seizing us. For example, I wrote this speech just like I wrote most of my academic papers throughout my four years here: a few hours before it was due, typing furiously and breathing heavily. Those were the times of hard work, perseverance, and patience, and they may have felt enveloping. But they have shaped us just as much, and just as well.

One of the many poems that Gary Partenheimer read to us in our Religious Studies class was called “The Rowing Endeth,” by Anne Sexton, where the speaker, after a long, arduous journey of rowing, finally docks her boat on an island called God. An excerpt reads:

This dock is made in the shape of a fish
and there are many boats moored
at many different docks.
“It’s okay,” I say to myself,
with blisters that broke and healed
and broke and healed.

Rowers might appreciate that line.

She then goes on to play a game of poker with God! Who (you might’ve guessed, since he is God) has a hand with a wild card that trumps her royal flush. I bring this poem up today because of its sense of finality, of humor, of bittersweetness, which I think encapsulates our final moments as students here at NMH, where we’ve momentarily moored our boats on the same dock, shortly before we scatter about the rest of the world. I dedicate the next excerpt of the same poem to my dearest teachers, classmates, and friends for life.

“I with my royal straight flush,
love you so for your wild card,
that untamable, eternal, gut-driven ha-ha
and lucky love.”

Thank you, NMH, for your ephemeral moments -- both the ones that we seized and the ones that seized us -- as well as your eternal, enduring gifts. Thank you.


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