Grace Nickel: Changing roads to self-discovery

Thank you, Mr. Schels. Good evening family, friends, faculty, administration and fellow graduates. I am humbled by the opportunity to address you all on this very special occasion.
At this moment, we, the Class of 2015, are at yet another juncture on this highway called life. We are changing the direction in which we have traveled for the past four years at Wilton High School and for some, like myself, 12 years in the Wilton Public School System. However, we aren’t getting out of the car quite yet. I like to envision us merely merging off the road of our lives as Wilton High School students and exiting onto another one of higher education, employment and self-discovery.
For some, this transition is daunting and for others, a welcome relief. Regardless of our feelings about our next steps, however, I believe that a sense of discomfort, whatever its magnitude, unites us all at this stage of transition in our lives. Change of any kind can be extremely unsettling. Families may feel the void of a child who no longer lives at home. Teachers will have to adjust to a new incoming class of freshmen. And no matter where we go next, we’ll have to take a leap of faith in forging new communities for ourselves, relying on our memories of high school as nostalgic comforts without letting the past hinder our future pursuits.
Celestine Chua, the founder of “Personal Excellence,” once said, “Fear, uncertainty and discomfort are your compasses toward growth.” We are all, to some degree, fearful and uncertain about our next chapter, no matter what we intend to do or where we plan to go. However, it is the action of facing and overcoming this very discomfort that will ultimately guarantee us a prosperous future.
Though being surrounded by people you have known and walls you have inhabited for decades is no doubt very valuable in some respects, discomfort far surpasses familiarity in its promotion of perseverance and growth. Numerous members of the Class of 2015 have proven the merits of constantly challenging their perceived boundaries, even when doing so is more trying than remaining satisfied with the status quo. We are in the company of members of our very own FCIAC champion baseball team, a Presidential Scholar, two all-time leading scorers in Wilton High School basketball history and a member of the National Youth Orchestra of the U.S.A. These individuals and our class as a whole did not triumph without experiencing feelings of occasional self-doubt. Instead of succumbing to these emotions, however, we stayed the course, acknowledging the obstacles ahead and conquering them as they presented themselves along the road of our journeys throughout high school.
Neale Donald Walsch once said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. So if you’re feeling uncomfortable right now, know that the change taking place in your life is a beginning, not an ending.” Let us apply this lesson to the next phase of our lives and consciously choose to immerse ourselves in what may initially seem like intimidating and challenging situations, knowing that we will benefit from doing so every time we do.
To our families and friends, thank you for supporting our growth by encouraging us to challenge ourselves. To the Wilton High School teachers and staff, thank you for your patience as we stumbled along the sometimes-bumpy road of high school. And to my family, I wouldn’t be standing here today without the love and guidance you provided me every step of the way. Congratulations Class of 2015, we’ve finally reached the exit.