‘Live in moment,’ embrace imperfection, Glenwood Springs HS grads urged
Glenwood Springs High School English teacher Charlie DeFord often discourages the use of clichés by his students.
“The danger,” he said in addressing the 171 graduates of the GSHS Class of 2016 Saturday at Stubler Memorial Field, “is that, one, you look uninspired when you use them.
“And, the other issue is that they have been espoused so often and become so elastic that clichés mean nothing to your audience.”
Yet, it was that cliché of all graduation day clichés, carpe diem, or “seize the day,” that served as the cornerstone of DeFord’s faculty address to this year’s graduates.
As tired and cliché as it is, the meaning of carpe diem has been “bastardized,” he said.
Rather than seizing this day forward, which can lead to too many “what ifs,” he advised them to seize this very moment of their lives, or, “what is,” and to pursue what inspires their curiosity and makes them happy, not just what they are expected to do.
“When we are not living in today, living in this moment, we are trivializing both,” DeFord said. “Desires and curiosity live in the present tense, expectations live in the future …”
The commencement address was given by Catherine Schmitz, a 2012 GSHS graduate and recent New York University graduate who is now pursuing her master’s degree at the prestigious Parson’s School of Design.
Schmitz encouraged the graduates to set goals and do what it takes to achieve them, even if that means making sacrifices.
She told of her own experience during her undergraduate studies when she accepted a full-time internship with a leading digital marketing agency while also carrying a full load of classes.
There are always “naysayers, roadblocks and obstacles” to overcome, she said.
“When there are naysayers, try to understand where their concerns come from and evaluate the potential consequence of your decision,” Schmitz said. “But always keep your goal in mind.
“When roadblocks are in your way, remind yourself that there are ways around them,” she said.
This year’s graduating class at GSHS had a whopping 16 valedictorians, due in part to the expansion of advanced placement classes in recent years and the calculation of both weighted and unweighted grade point averages, Principal Paul Freeman explained.
Giving the valedictory address were MacKenzi Johnson, Erick Quintanilla Orantes, Dylan Mechling and Megan Uren.
Johnson and Mechling spoke to theirs and their fellow classmates’ imperfections, and the need to embrace them.
“We are far from perfect, and that is exactly the reason why we can look to the future with great hope,” said Johnson, who also received this year’s Bryan Whiting Award of Excellence, recognizing her academic achievement and preparedness to succeed in the “real world.”
“Life is flawed,” Johnson said, “but together we found a way to overcome and succeed.”
Mechling was skeptical that he will look back on high school as the best time of his life; certainly not if long hours in classes and studying for test after test is any measure.
“High school wasn’t perfect, college won’t be either. The real world certainly won’t be. Nothing is perfect, but imperfection is beautiful,” Mechling observed. “We certainly have our imperfections, but that is what makes us unique, it’s what makes us great, what makes us, us.”
Quintanilla Orantes said he wished there was a special road map to plot out life’s course.
“But life is more like looking into a cloud or a fog,” he said. “Only some of the areas are visible, a vague silhouette of what is to come.”
Like DeFord, he also urged his classmates to live for the moment, even quoting Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around for a while, you could miss it.”
Uren encouraged her classmates to remember their roots, no matter what life brings.
“Remember this town, and these people that have shaped you,” she said. “We have all had the shared experience together, and we can always cherish that.
“Most importantly, go be good, find what you love, work hard and seek happiness,” Uren said. “We each have our own story, now go make it great.”
Freeman shared a similar message.
“Today is a new beginning, and on this and every subsequent day you have a chance to reinvent yourselves,” he said.
“It’s a lot easier to persist when you are doing something that you love. Find something that you love,” he said, “and have a good answer to the question posed by the poet Mary Oliver, ‘Tell me what it is that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’”
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