The day before I had to write my valediction, I went to my old middle school, presumably to pick up a time-capsule from my eighth grade self, but in actuality picking up so much more. It surprised me to see how vapid I was. Like, really, really vapid. And I know that everyone makes a judgement on their former self, especially the 13-year-old one. But in my case I was comfortable making the judgement, because I was proud of who I'd turned into. And even though the time-capsule I collected was both mortifying and downright awful, it was really great to see how far I've come.
This valediction meant a lot to me. Partly because, well, my English teacher is so hard please. And I wanted to write something that justified to him what I've always believed; that I can actually write. And even though I wrote it haphazardly and foolishly, almost three months ago to the day, it's something I'm going to look back at and read when I doubt myself. Enjoy:
"Four years ago, I wrote myself a letter. “You probably don’t remember me, so I’ll describe myself,” I said, “I’m five foot three,” I said. It’s four years later, and I’m five foot two, so really, a lot has changed.
An inch means a lot. The difference between winning a race and coming in second, getting on a ride at an amusement park, and apparently 12 year old and 17 year old me. Maybe, an inch can mean so much more than what it gets you, or where it takes you. It can mean new haircuts, new friends, new inside jokes. It can mean internal growth and personal achievement.
But what if an inch is just an inch, and what we’ve learned from our English classes isn’t that everything is a metaphor, but rather everything means what you want it to.
If that’s the case, I have a few inches for my 21-year-old self: don’t harp on the fact that you’ve only just become legal. Drinking isn’t as fun as it seems. The answer is always yes. Unless the question is, wanna hop into this van? In that case, you’re going to wanna say no and back away slowly. If life gives you lemons, make the damn lemonade. It tastes good and it builds character. Don’t forget to laugh so hard you pee yourself. They say you’re not supposed to do that after kindergarten, but they’re lying.
The year is 2013. Your hair is brown, your friends are weird, and sometimes people laugh at your jokes. Treasure these moments, take these inches and run miles. Use as many clichés as you possibly can before you get real tired of it. Be young. Be wild. Be free. Shout One Direction songs at the top of your lungs. Don’t care. Eat exotic food. Do it all and then do it all again.
When you’re old and grey, and wearing pants past your belly button, it’s these times you’re going to want to remember. The late nights, the early mornings. The laughter and definitely the tears. Keep the people who understand you close. And the people who don’t, really dang far away. So, in the words of your eighth grade self, “Just do it, okay? Never look back.”
Present (and discretely wise) Natasha"