Graduation Speech – May, 2020

After I saw a graduation for the first time, I said to myself that I would make a speech before I left. So while I’m happy that I followed through, I didn’t expect to be talking to everyone through a zoom call. But, I’ll work with what I have.

Before I go into my experience at Montana Academy, I want to briefly talk about how I ended up Marion, Montana. Before MA, I had been to 4 high schools and 2 wilderness programs in 3 years. I had gotten kicked out of two schools and then sent to wilderness for the first time. After wilderness, I went home where I proceeded to go to two more schools. I went to one in the summer which I did fine at but when I went to a new school in the fall, I got kicked out in a matter of months. This left my parents feeling pretty hopeless, so they made the decision to send me back to wilderness and then eventually MA. I had been the new kid so many times that it became part of me. When I was in these situations I would make bold decisions in which I would be supported by a few but scolded by many.

Montana Academy was no different. When I came to MA, I struggled a lot. As I’m sure many of the students I’m talking to remember, I was not very well liked on campus to begin with. I quickly had built a negative reputation for myself just as I had done at all of my schools before. Warren Buffet has famously said that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. Well, the good news is I had already ruined my reputation in five minutes so I was just working backwards.

But seriously, things weren’t going so hot for me. On top of feeling like a social out-cast, I was struggling with some really disturbing thoughts. Throughout my life I have struggled with existential crisis. I didn’t know that that was what it was called until I got to wilderness, the second time, but as soon as my therapist explained it to me I realized that it’s something that I had been struggling with since I was young. For those of you that might be a bit confused, Medical News Today explains it as “when a person frequently wonders whether or not life has any inherent meaning or purpose. A person may also question their own existence within a world that might seem meaningless.” These thoughts left me feeling helpless and without a sense of direction. But, one of the very few positive aspects of going through an existential crisis on a consistent basis is the effect it has on your work ethic. I always attribute my tenacity to this. Early on I had told myself that while I do not know the answer to my questions now, I still need to work for what I want in life while I look for the answer.

My goal for myself going into Montana Academy was to address this issue. And while I have made a lot of progress on dealing with these thoughts, I also made many realizations. One very important realization was that the thoughts will not stop for the rest of my life. There may be periods of time where I feel relief but the fact that I’m worrying if my life has a purpose, 60 years before I die, is a pretty good sign for me that it won’t be going away any time soon.  The second realization was that because I know I will never have the answer, it’s crucial that I attack life with vigor. I still need to make the most out of my life regardless of what is going on for me.

At Montana Academy, I have created the closest relationships I have ever had. These relationships have changed my life in ways that words can’t describe. They take up a very special place in my heart. Through relationships I made my biggest realization. I had already told myself that I needed to make the most out of my life but what does that mean? This for me ended up being those close relationships. I crave human connection and that is what I needed. This is what grounds me to my life.

Why this took me so long to figure out I don’t know but all I can say is I’m very glad that I had a chance to figure it out while I was here in Montana.

Thank You.