Good morning, everyone. My name is Athena Chu, and I am honored to be speaking here on behalf of the class of 2018 today.
I have been joking for the longest time that I was ready to graduate BB&N sophomore year. But standing here today, I have to admit that the only thing I am certain of is what I am about to leave behind. BB&N, everything it gave us, and everything it forced us to find for ourselves, has prepared us well. If there is anything we have learned over the past four years from our friends, our family, and our faculty and staff, it is that we are capable. There is no doubt that we would not be where we are right now without the care and guidance of our teachers, without the love from our families, without the laughter, the fights, the apologies, the compromises, the sacrifices. So, I am ready to leave this place, but I am far from ready to say goodbye.
And yet, here we are.
“It’s our time, breathe it in:
worlds to change and worlds to win!
Our turn coming through,
Me and you, man,
Me and you!”
These are the lyrics to the last song from the musical Merrily We Roll Along. I saw it a month into senior year after Mr. Leith, my teacher and advisor, convinced me to watch it. The story is told backwards. It begins with three friends in their forties and ends with the first time they meet each other sometime in their twenties in college.
In the last scene, the three friends embrace on the roof of a New York City apartment, singing to the sky. They don’t know yet that in pursuing their dreams they will lose each other, that they will each find success on their own terms, but not together, that their love for what they do will overcome their love for one another. They don’t know yet that sometimes they have to choose between their passions and their livelihoods, that they will not always make the right decisions, or even realize that they made a decision, that they will sacrifice the wrong things for the wrong reasons. They don’t know yet that this world is not always forgiving or understanding, that it is full of both wonder and heartbreak.
We don’t know yet either, do we?
Class of 2018, we are not actors in a musical. At least, I don’t think we are. If we are, I am screwed. I haven’t learned my lines yet, or any of the lyrics or the melody or the cues or which character I am supposed to be for that matter, or when the opening day is, or where the stage is….
But I’m not too worried. Maybe we don’t learn our lines because we have to write them ourselves. Maybe we don’t have a stage yet because we have to make one of our own. Maybe we each have our own version of a stage. Maybe every day is opening day. There’s no one day to work for. Every day is it. We cannot wait around for someone to tell us who we are. We were given our names, but we have also named ourselves again and again these past four years. We named ourselves athletes, artists, biologists, chemists, engineers, debaters, writers, mathematicians, historians. We have named ourselves all of these things at once. We have named ourselves classmates and teammates, students and teachers, friends and family. When we leave this place we will name ourselves again. We are the protagonists of our own stories, the secondary characters of each other’s, and sometimes the antagonists. There’s no one character we are “supposed” to be in the end.
Most of us will spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out why we are here. Many of us will fail to do so. And that’s okay. We do not need to know everything, despite how much we yearn for it.
The Class of 2018, we yearn for a lot of things, and it is our desire for something greater than ourselves that makes us an accomplished class.
Standing here are the most driven and talented people I have ever met. I can tell you about Elijah Davis’ documentary, how he interviewed admissions officers, parents, and black students and alumni at nearby ISL schools, how he worked on the project for an entire year to tell the stories that have not been told yet. I can tell you about the cookbook Consi Faling, Caroline Donnelly Moran, Angela Liu, and Cora Wendlandt made, or how Jenna Selden rescued animals from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico after the hurricane left many without a home. I can tell you about Henry Marshall, the youngest national sailing champion in American history, or Shayan Olumi and Lily Druker, our very own Boston Marathon runners. I can tell you about every ISL championship. I can tell you about the best sophomore debate team to ever come together: Chris Attisani, Danny Noenickx, Yliuz Sierra Marin, and me. I can tell you about Avi Madsen playing the role of Creon in Antigone, dragging Jeremy Tang, who played Haemon, across the stage, and how he grieved over losing his son—one of the best moments in theater I had ever seen at this school. I can tell you about every late night Elisa Tabor and I spent editing Point of View articles, driving to get Chinese food at midnight. I will always be astounded by her work ethic. I can tell you about art class and how, when I looked over at Bri Forman’s painting, it would already be finished. Before I even got my paints or brushes out yet, she had already created a masterpiece. I can tell you about dance class in freshman year. We were jamming to some Bruno Mars song, and Ben Blackburn was my partner. I have to admit I was impressed with his dance moves (it’s no wonder that so many people had a crush on him).
I can tell you about everything we have excelled in, how many awards we won, how many miles we ran, how many paintings we made. I can tell you about how many times we threw the ball until we got it right, how many times we recited the same words over and over until we had that poem fully memorized. I can tell you about how early we woke up or how late we stayed up to get to where we are now, how we gave 100 percent on the field or the stage or in the classroom even when we felt like we had nothing left to give.
We have a lot to be proud of, and we know we have so much more to offer. But there will always be another time to celebrate what we have accomplished. There will rarely be a time again when we, the class of 2018, are all here together. In the musical Merrily We Roll Along, the three friends on that roof learned too late that everything they would come to achieve amounted to very little if they didn’t have each other to celebrate with.
And so, I not only want to celebrate with you all, I want to celebrate us—not what we have done over the past four years, just who we have become, who we want to be, who we are right now, just us.
Because it’s not the wins or the losses that I’ll remember in the years to come. It will be everything in between. It will be the smallest moments, the ones we are sure to forget. I’ll remember best that time Delila Keravuori taught our whole Bivouac squad how to make bruschetta, and how we rejoiced over eating what felt like a five-star meal in the middle of the woods. I’ll remember best that time Ali Plump was solving some calculus equation in her notebook under the table during our history class junior year, and how she beamed when she figured it out. I’ll remember the pure joy on her face. I’ll remember best the last week of our fall semester when the finish line felt so far away and impossible, and Maggie Foot gave me a hug and said everything I needed to hear. I’ll remember best that same day when Andreas Frank squeezed my hand in the library and nodded in understanding.
There are so many moments shared among this group of people before you, some we wish to never speak of again, some we can’t help but smile over. These are moments, here and now, that I want to save for us, because they are ours, and ours only. They cannot be put into words.
I wish I could know for sure what is to come after this ends. Right now, we are just those kids on a roof. But we cannot rewind our lives or live backwards. We don’t know if we will get to where we want to be. All we know is that we have each other right now. The whole world is in front of us, and so be it if it is at times ugly and hard and tiresome, cruel and lonely. It doesn’t have to make any sense. The world will not wait for us, and it does not care for us, but we will care for it anyway. Because the world is kind too, and beautiful. It is full of stories that we will want to tell. It is everything we dream of—I am sure of it, I have to be—everything we see in each other right now, and everything we can’t even fathom yet.
We are more than capable of overcoming tough times, and even more so, our own doubts and fears. We have to try. We will try. And in trying, we will make mistakes. We have made many already. We hurt and misunderstand each other, but we also help each other. We listen to each other and laugh with each other. We should not be afraid of failing, only a missed opportunity. Our BB&N education is ingrained into us as we continue on our paths. It doesn’t matter where we come from or where we are planning on going. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. It doesn’t even matter if we remember this particular moment, if these four years all blur into an afterthought.
May we never forget, rather, how hopeful we are right now, how eager and alive. May we never forget the excitement of an ending. May we never forget the freedom of a beginning. May we never forget that there will always be another roof, that there will be more moments like this one. May we never forget that we are loved. May we never forget that there is always something to love. May we never forget what we have right now. May we never forget who and what we have come to love in just four years.
Right now, we are here. We happen to be here together. The Class of 2018.
The whole world is in front of us, and all that matters is we begin.