Senior Speech: Shelby Cline

Emily Orr, Managing Editor, Darlingtonian

Click above to check out our ThingLink, an interactive look at senior Shelby Cline’s speech in assembly on Oct. 12, 2015.

I’m going to try and keep this short since I know you all have places to be and people to see. But over the past few weeks I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what to tell you all. I mean, what advice could I possibly give that hasn’t already been heard a thousand times? And, then I realized, you guys need to hear something that contradicts the things we’ve been told all our lives.

Success isn’t everything. Getting straight A’s or being an MVP during high school probably won’t matter when you’re 50. Procrastination isn’t a bad thing. Staying up all night to finish that essay due at 8 am won’t be worth the lack of sleep, especially when you have homework again the next night. And, most of all, failure is always an option.

We live in a society that puts so much value on our accomplishments. Hard work is rewarded; realizing your goals are crucial, and winning is better than losing. Well I’m here to tell you that sometimes, in the greater scheme of things, all that stuff is worthless. How much will all those accomplishments matter when you’re 90 years old and reflecting back on the past? Will you think about your 2400 SAT score before you think about your best friend? In all likelihood, you won’t.

And there’s a reason for this. Our rewards, our list of accomplishments that colleges seem to love so much are superficial in comparison to the things that really matter. Road trips, spending time with loved ones, listening to your favorite song, experiencing the pain of loss, laughing so hard you cry – all those moments stand out because it’s when we’re actually living. In this materialistic world of ours we tend to lose sight of these moments. We become so wrapped up in our little bubbles that we forget to take a break and just live. We forget to put ourselves in other people’s skin and remember that they have their own set of problems. That the universe doesn’t revolve solely around you. And, something that I have personally struggled with, we forget to take care of ourselves. We work so hard trying to achieve something tangible that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

This goes out to all the kids who spend hours practicing on their instruments or doing their sports or anything else they have a passion for, aiming to be better. This goes out to all the parents who work long hours and double jobs, just to make ends meet. This goes out to the Alice Lu’s of the world, who do their homework in the laundry room at 2:00 am so that they don’t wake up their roommates. This goes to myself, for when I need to take a dose of my own advice.

I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that it’s okay not to be perfect. I’m not trying to undermine what people struggle for and works towards, but it’s so easy to get wrapped up into this spiral of do, do, do. As teenager’s we all have heavy expectations placed on our shoulders. Especially at a place like Darlington where our parents, teachers, peers all want us to succeed. However, this pressure can lead to dangerous paths. We get depressed, have anxiety issues, become reckless. Some people smoke, drink, don’t eat, or binge watch Netflix – all just to escape this constant pressure we deal with on a daily basis. I mean, how can you love other people when you can’t even love and take care of yourself? … You know, I once heard that modern teenagers have the same anxiety levels as insane asylum patients in 1950’s. And while I’m not sure of how true this is, it definitely reflects the current reality we face. So, instead of counting down the days till our next break, make an effort to ease up right now. Like, as in, after assembly now. It can be in the little things, go play your favorite video game or read a book or even just go take a walk. But don’t let yourself get burnt out in high school, because we all still have the rest of our lives to go.

I’ll leave you with this Dr. Seuss quote that I use to remind myself with a lot: “Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.” We have to have a balance in our lives in order to not let one piece overtake the rest. It won’t always work out, but it’s the attempt and promise to continually try that counts. And maybe if we could make a difference within ourselves, we could make a difference in the world.