Today was our Mr./Miss Union assembly, where we crown one senior female and one senior male as, essentially, being the pinnacle of a Union Redskin.
I have mixed emotions about this ceremony. The optimist in me loves that we celebrate our top students. Not once, in my eight years at this school, have I seen a student on that stage that wasn’t phenomenal in every aspect of the word. I love that they hear the message: “We are so crazy proud of you.”
The pessimist in me wonders what all the other kids think of this assembly. Especially when I hear comments afterwards that make it clear others are at best jealous, at worst hurt. I always notice the lack of diversity on that stage—even though our campus’s greatest strength is all its colors and backgrounds and cultures.
As I waited for the program to begin, I wondered what it’s like to have a brain that doesn’t make everything an internal struggle. Really truly. Why do I have to make everything so difficult? Why can’t I just accept things as-is and move on? Why must I fight?
And then I was snapped backed into reality when our Mr. Union 2016 was introduced as our guest speaker. Chris was and remains one of mine. I had the honor of having him for two years and now he’s headed to medical school to become a pediatric oncologist—the same dream he’s had since I met him six years ago.
You know what Chris talked to us about?
Chris quoted Theodore Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Fight where you’re at—Chris told us.
It might not be easy. You might fail. “I hope you fail,” were his words, actually.
But keep fighting.
Oh, how my soul needed those words.
Chris left the stage,and the ceremony started and ended. It was beautiful; I teared up more than once listening to students talk about their friends in a way that was so honest and so real.
As with all assemblies, I had a clear exit strategy for the moment we were dismissed (hi, hello, yes still you’re favorite introvert over here).
I was back up to my room (across campus and on a separate floor) before most of the performance hall had even cleared out, despite my unfortunate assigned seat which was nowhere near a desirable exit.
As I was congratulating myself on a job well done getting back to my room so quickly, I looked up—to see Chris.
We hugged and chatted quickly before he had to dash back to meetings and I had to start class again.
But what a joy.
I’m just a little calculus teacher.
But it’s my kids who remind me: keep fighting the fight. It’s my kids who remind me: we see you. We see you fighting for us.
I’ll fight for them forever.