Finality--Validictory Address at SSTX
By: Myles Wortham


It’s a bittersweet and recurring theme in life, repeating from the day you’re born to the day you die. No matter who you are, you’ll have a final moment with every single person in this room. A final moment with every friend, family member, and person you’ll meet in your life. Today, I’ll talk to you about finality and how it affects us in three different aspects: our perspective, our legacy, and our ability to appreciate.

Seniors… We are at the end. For many of us, today will be the last time we see each other so now is the best time for reflection. There’s a phrase I’m fond of: “Hindsight is 20-20”. In other words, everything is clear looking back. With our newfound clarity, we see the overall importance of events in our lives. We see how much time we spent building up relationships. Then we watch those same relationships torn down in a fraction of the time because of petty disagreements. Looking back, was it worth it?

Finality gives you a different perspective on “important matters.” The end of High School is graduation. For the most part, regardless of choices, the end result is still here. Now that we’re here, we look at one another and feel a sense of belonging as graduates of 2012. We are SST’s first sixth through twelfth grade class.

Those “important matters” didn’t affect the end result. They weren’t important in the long run, yet they caused tears, heartbreak, and pain… the reasons for conflict were unimportant, but their effect on each of us was very important.
In the movie, “Karate Kid,” there’s a scene I’ll never forget. After walking in on Jackie smashing his car, Jaden learns Jackie does this every year on the same day. You see, on this day, Jackie and his wife had had an argument while driving. They got in a wreck. His wife and son died. And for everything in his being, Jackie could not remember what they were arguing about. Whatever it was, he knows it could not have been important enough to cause the death of his wife and only child.

This story shows vividly the connection of cause and effect with conflict. The cause might be insignificant, but the effect can be monumental. But how does this apply to us? We’re at a beginning. Life doesn’t end at graduation. Apply the knowledge of the effects of pain and to the rest of your life. Use it to avoid conflict when possible. Be a positive impact on others’ lives.

The subject of impact on others’ brings me to my next point: legacy. When viewing life from the perspective of finality, you might wonder how you’ll be remembered as you move on.

Memory—it’s everything. Your entire life, in essence, is a memory. Your experiences; ups and downs, victories and defeats, loves had, loves lost, life. Everything. Memory.

Legacy and finality are directly related, since you can’t leave a legacy behind if you’re still creating one. In her poem, Linda Ellis said, “on a gravestone that reads 1964 – 1994. What mattered most of all was the dash between those years.” Our legacy is defined by what we do from the beginning to the end, the dash. You don’t have to be dead to leave a legacy though. In reality the only difference between someone alive and someone dead is the ability to make memories with them. Just think, when I leave tonight, for the majority of the people in this room, we won’t create new memories, so I’m dead to you. My gravestone in your world says “2012-2012” with a very small dash. The memories you have of me after tonight, what I leave behind, will be my legacy in your life.

But why leave a legacy? Legacy is others’ memory of you. If we didn’t affect others at all, nobody would even know we existed. Our existence on Earth would legitimately be useless. So what we leave behind, our impact on this world depends on the differences we make in others’ lives. I’d like to mention four who have left an astounding legacy on my life and the school. Their legacy won’t be forgotten: Mrs. Barba, Mr. Mamedov, Mr. Emrah, and Mr. Adam.

Mrs. Barba, our mother at school, acted as a lighthouse from sixth grade, guiding us all through our hormonal changes to lead us to this moment. Mr. Mamedov, the guy forcing us to do things we didn’t want to do because he knew it was good for us. Mr. Emrah—I’ll never forget my overpowering urge to leave SST in sixth grade. He was the main reason I decided to stay. That changed my life… Lastly, Mr. Adam, our Math teacher for five years. He cared, was a father at school who we knew we could talk to when we needed it.

We all have many more memories, some good some bad, with at least two of these individuals. They are living examples of people who influence and affect our lives as a whole. It’s in those impacts, those memories, that they have made a difference and left their legacy in our lives forever as we move on. Mrs. Barba, Mr. Adam, Mr. Emrah, and Mr. Mamedov, I want to say thank you. For everything.

So I’ve spoken to you about finality’s effect on perspective, how it allows us a legacy; these points bring me to my final point: appreciation and its relation to the end.

The phrase “You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone” is the truth.

Endings bring appreciation and sorrow as a pair. Unfortunately, it’s only at the end that true appreciation is obtained because true appreciation of something is a direct result of acknowledging its scarcity. Knowing you are short on time, that soon you won’t be able to make more memories fosters appreciation of people. It applies to anything though. If you’re accustomed to having it and believe you’ll have it forever, why appreciate it?

My parents are my best example of this. I’m so accustomed to having them in my life that I thought they’d always be here. I knew our paths would diverge when college came, but that concept wasn’t real until recently. Then one day I woke up and realized I’m leaving in a month. I was in shock and denial. Life wouldn’t change. I’d continue to see them daily. I’d continue to have arguments. The lessons of showing appreciation they tried instilling in me would continue to be pointless… because the end wasn’t nearby. But suddenly it is. Your telling me I am a byproduct of, who laid the foundation that allowed me to develop into who I am today… your telling me that soon I’ll rarely see them? There’s so much regret over time wasted. Oceans of knowledge and experience I took for granted because I felt I had all the time in the world to access. And then one day you realize…you’re out of time, only then do those lessons of appreciation make sense. Only then do you truly appreciate, when you’re out of time.

So as our conclusion with each other weighs down on your shoulders and gives you new appreciation for those around you, don’t succumb to the sorrow. Look ahead and remember to appreciate. Take advantage of what you have at the moment because it won’t last forever. Nothing does…

Well now, I’ve spoken to you about finality and its effects on perspective, legacy, and appreciation. Remember in comparison to the big picture, many of these problems are small. Leave your mark on this world and those around you. And lastly, while you do it all, use what you can while you are able and appreciate what you have. Realize as Henry Ford said, “Whether you believe you can or can’t do something, you’re probably right.” It’s been an honor knowing you, Seniors. I’d like to say thank you again to my family, teachers, and friends for all the support throughout the years. And with that, thank you for listening.