2018 MSHS Valedictorian Speech by Kaitlyn Chalfant
Good Evening Parents, Siblings, Family and Friends and thank you for joining us tonight.
And to you, Class of 2018, Congratulations. Tonight we celebrate all of our successes, reflect on our memories, and take a step into our futures. As we move forward, I want to wish for each of you one simple thing: joy. Joy does not always come easily or quickly, but when it does come, it isn’t fleeting or just a passing moment. It is permanent and it is fulfilling. To experience joy, we will at some point likely have to step away from expectations. Instead of searching for success, we will search for contentment. Instead of searching for recognition, we will search for purpose. And instead of searching for perfection, we will search for meaning.
Since we were young we have been indirectly told that financial success and the obtainment of wealth are necessary to live a meaningful life yet at the same time we have been told very directly that we should do what makes us happy. Unfortunately, these two value systems often clash and we have to make a difficult decision. Will I set aside what brings me gratification for a path that only guarantees me stability, or will I set aside the views and expectations of society to find my own joy? I hope that each of you chooses the latter, and pursues whatever it is that brings you contentment. I understand that this is terrifying. Some of us, when this is done, will still find stability, but others may enter a life in which there is constant uncertainty, but I have this suspicion that the joy we will find if we are following the path we are truly meant to will far outweigh the unsatisfying life we would lead if we chose to run after wealth. We would constantly be searching for something more, something that we would never find if we don’t pursue our purpose.
Making this decision can be intimidating for many reasons. First of all, we are stepping away from the expectations of others. They may question our motivations or try to advise us to stick to the social norm. But even more impactful than the expectations from others is our own minds. We all say we’re going to do what makes us happy and pursue our dreams, but we all also subconsciously crave success and recognition. It’s difficult for most of us to step into the unknown and face the judgments of others, but without doing so, we may never experience the life that will bring us the most excitement, wonder, and contentment. For these reasons, we must follow our passions. Some of you may have a clear idea of what this is for you and be ready to step into the life you desire. Many of you though are probably sitting here racking your brains trying to figure out what your passion is. But here’s the good news: we have our whole life to find that one thing that makes our heart skip a beat or our breath stop for a moment. I encourage each of you to spend your whole life fighting to find your purpose because when we settle for something that gives us security and simply meets expectations, we may experience moments of happiness, but we are likely to miss out on true joy.
Most likely, the majority of us have had these moments of happiness throughout the last four years, and don’t get me wrong, these are times we will cherish forever, but even more fruitful is joy, which is enduring and immutable. (AP English vocab *wink*) Once this joy is found, it will stick with each of us through everything. Not only will it be there during times of celebration, but it will stay through times of hurting. This doesn’t make us invincible; we will still be susceptible to pain, but there will be a newfound peace and constant hope in our hearts and minds. Believe it or not, this joy can be found even when our lives are filled with imperfections and regrets and doubts. Therefore, instead of looking for perfection and the ideal life, instead look for meaning and purpose. Once this is found, joy will follow soon after.
One last thing; when you possess joy, people will be envious. Even if they have achieved all that society expected them to, there will be something missing. They may see that you have something they don’t. For this reason, I encourage you to share your joy as you go forward. First, find it for yourself and then let your joy shine through your actions and words because we have the opportunity to change the world, even if that’s one person at a time.
So, Class of 2018, it’s time to take the next step in this long journey they call life. What choices will you make? What values will you keep? What will you run after? This is a time of big and scary decisions, but I believe that if we keep joy in mind, these decisions may not be so difficult after all. Follow your purpose, find your meaning, and search for contentment.