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Observing Alex

Essays and poems on life, aesthetic, and society

June 02, 2019

Commencement Poem 2019

Reciting this poem during my high school graduation.

I wrote and then presented this poem during my high school graduation from Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, Florida on June 2, 2019.

I began writing on January 30 and finished on May 23, 2019.


Today does not mark the start of something new—
the closing of a book; the start of another author.

Nor is today a celebration of what was—
a peak in our existence awaiting lives of banal.

Instead, my friends, I argue that,
today is a celebration of our continued success.

Breathe in the feeling—it’s a curious mix
of excitement, nostalgia, and angst.

Excitement for what the future holds,
nostalgia for the past’s stories told,
and angst over the present transition.

It’s a feeling that, I believe,
stays within us at varying degrees,
every single day of our lives.

But only in pause—for most of us at least,
do we feel it rise to the surface.

To hit this point home,
I made an analogy,
with which I know every graduate can relate:

Consider your life as a drive down Bray Road,
returning with your friends from lunch.

As is sometimes the case,
you are running late,
and maybe, just maybe, you speed.

And although we all know the rules of the road,
and what the big, red stop signs mean—
in dire times, we prioritize…and then we rev up to speed…

Until of course we reach the guard gate,
which is not the end but a means,
to continue on, to learn, and do all that came with our time at Berkeley.

Today does not mark the start of something new—
the closing of a book; the start of another author.

Nor is today a celebration of what was—
a peak in our existence awaiting lives of banal.

Instead, my friends, I argue that,
today is a celebration of our continued success.

In our day-to-day lives,
it is easy to speed—
as speeding blurs the angst between
excitement and nostalgia.
Like the motion of a car,
blurs the transition,
as the windows change from departure to destination.

Up until this point,
our academic lives
have been meticulously dominated by structure.
And as we go on,
to college and beyond,
it’s okay to have some fear of the wonders.

We are all a little scared.

Some of us more than others,
                 less than others,
                 at different times than others,
                 in different context than others,

but we all wonder:

if our efforts have been and will be enough,
if our colleges are just right for us,
if we’ll have careers that we enjoy,
and if our best, is really what we employ?

If we will find people who we love,
if we will find people who love us,
if we’ll ever truly understand ourselves,
and if we are leading lives of meaning?

I don’t think these fears ever go away,
but they are managed by days like today.
When we slow down and reflect
on all the good we have experienced,

and all of the bad as well.

And in reflection we notice that
even on our brightest days still existed shadows of darkness,
and on our darkest nights were guiding stars.

And it’s through this recognition of ebbs and flows that we build trust.

Trust in ourselves; trust in our futures.
Trust in our successes, and our failures.

Trust that we will make homes out of all the places we go.

Trust that we can slow down, and we will be alright. (We’ll be great.)

Today does not mark the start of something new—
the closing of a book; the start of another author.

Nor is today a celebration of what was—
a peak in our existence awaiting lives of banal.

Instead, my friends, I argue that,
today is a celebration of our continued success,
in trusting ourselves, through all our endeavors
and wishing each other well on our new adventures.


Thanks to Susan Alexander for helping me refine the poem and my presentation of it and Sarah Munger for encouraging me to apply to be the class poet.