First of all: each of you is a beautiful, unique individual—it’s an undeniable reality. On the other hand, don’t forget that in the grand scheme of things we’re nothing more than confused, yet unremittingly curious, animals, spending a few decades revolving around a massive yellow star—I always think about this any time I find myself succumbing to human-induced stress, pressure, and the like.

Some of you guys have already jumped ship for college and it’s ridiculously surreal. No more Moodle or Skyward; no more getting cut off by reckless classmates in the parking garage; no more losing mechanical pencils daily; no more vending machine people; no more knowing everybody, which, as we all know, was a blessing and a curse; no more Howdy Dance; no more situations with Evan Heckman; no more intrinsic significance to the time 3:30 pm; no more Sadlier-Oxford vocab books; no more warm, melt-in-your-mouth cafeteria cookies; no more football team or band or Belles or Color Guard; no more cumbersome fire drills; no more notes from Ms. Bowers’s office- we can list things all day (and I didn’t even mention middle and elementary school, for which we spent even more years together).

It’s August now, warm and crisp in principle, but to me it feels like a late Autumn day in November of 2014. Am I just being utterly sentimental? Perhaps, but I think this is a type of sentiment we all have. It’s not quite sadness; it’s not happiness; it’s just… weird. One day we were frozen in the perpetual microcosm of HP and the next day we were suddenly seniors and, thus, almost done, only to then graduate and say bye-bye (in a bittersweet yet energetic, impressionistic climax of nights).

Many of us agree that, in retrospect, our college days will end up an immeasurably greater time than those of our other schooling years, but there’s a particular sense of attachment to high school that the college experience will never surmount. When did you come to the realization that you were no longer a member of the functioning apparatus of annoying little innocent kids and, instead, were a mature young adult? When did you discover the grand set of your talents, flaws, and interests? When did you establish your favorite movies and music? When did you realize that you weren’t always going to be close to the friends with whom you’ve spent the majority of your current existence? A lot of these answers probably fall within your high school years. The duality of the foreverness and temporariness of high school runs very swiftly in this sense and it’s hard—especially for we 2015ers, who have just graduated—to digest it. [But before I go off on a tangent, I must lift a few things off my chest.]

Especially at HPHS, I had this strange tendency to block myself off, at least on an emotional basis, from people and devote my time instead to the fleeting relief of entertaining them on a superficial basis. I was always walking a thin line between being an insignificant bum and, with effort, quite a spectacle. I was so unsatisfied with my life that I got more out of being the crazy, whimsical guy than out of thoughtful relationships, memorable experiences, etc. These were some of my struggles and I am learning from them. But we all have stories, you know? Outside the six inches of your self-perceived existence, there are oceans of brains, voluminous waves of different people, infinite sinusoids of troughs and peaks within those ocean waves. So, now that you are no longer confined to our high school’s mob mentality of fervently judging one another and trying to be cool, learn from your high school mistakes and then get out of here and explore—explore yourself and, more importantly, explore the incredible stuff that exists on this massive chunk of atoms we call Earth.

Don’t completely let go of your past; to quote Principal Kelly, “You can’t live in the past, but you can’t deny that the past lives in you.” Don’t forget about all of the well-stitched friendships you’ve weaved. (It’s definitely easier for us to keep up with one another now that we’re armed with the permanent connection that is social media—I for one have never had a one minute conversation with at least 50 of you fellow graduates anyway, but that is okay ’cause  I am friends with practically all of you on Facebook.) At the same time, consider that your life is essentially a collection of memories that are constantly shattering and/or evolving, so it will look vastly different in 15 years than it looks at this exact moment. So, for that reason, although it’s sad to see everybody branch off, get excited and get ready to shape your life. You are part of such an awe-inspiring class. Think about it. Think about the culture, intellectual inspiration, memories, fame, athletic success, deep friendships, academic example, happiness, and everything else that our entire class has symbolized. This should be a constant reminder of our greatness: our holistic greatness and the distinct greatness of each person who walked across the stage at Moody Coliseum on May 29th, 2015.

Sure, some of this is starting to sound a little vague and redundant, but that’s because human words and rhetoric can’t explicitly describe the potential for beauty in a violin note, a complex model in a new civil engineering project, a sweet goal or touchdown, a new experience in a foreign country, a few oil-paint brushstrokes (or splatters, for you Jackson Pollock fans) on a white canvas, a newly-decorated contemporary home, a smile on an African orphan’s face, a stunning poem, a well-cooked dish, a brand new invention or piece of technology- we have awesome jobs to do and roles to fulfill. And despite the already voluminous amount of people in this class (540), we have even more sorts of success that are bound to come; the only differences now are that we’re older (which hopefully suggests we’re more mature) and we no longer have to congregate five times a week at 4220 Emerson Avenue—you won’t see anybody complaining about that.

Farewell friends, I bid you, but, at the same time, I also bid you a warm and inviting hello because we’re in the baby steps of a great journey—one that we will collectively undergo. And last, but not least, “Go Scots.”