The Wellesley Public Schools’ administrators and teachers took care of the heavy stuff at Wellesley High School’s 150th graduation ceremony on Friday, ticking off sobering facts and urging the Class of 2019 to do its part to improve the state of world affairs.
That left Senior Class Speaker Matt Haverty to handle the entertainment. Gamely sniffling his way through a cold, Matt both amused those in attendance and worked in a message about learning from your mistakes. You can view the speech at about the 20-minute mark of the Wellesley Public Media recording and read the transcript below:
Alright so to start this off I’m gonna paint you a picture
It’s not quite the Mona Lisa. Well maybe it is the Mona Lisa but like…if it were drawn on a sticky note…with a sharpie….
So here’s the picture
You’re 18…and you’re also me.
It is 2:17 am on a Tuesday and you’re on one of those deep dives into the internet. For example: one time in an attempt to do my history homework I found out about a game that I affectionately call wikipedia rat race, in which you select two entirely unrelated topics and then see how many clicks it takes you to get from one article to the other using only the references on wikipedia. That night, I was able to get from the cold war to club penguin (the massively successful children’s online game) in 7 clicks.
So ya know… one of THOSE nights
Somehow you have stumbled across a video with the title being “Welsh Stone carver: tapping gently and sharing wisdom”
In this video, you hear this quote:
“Learn to enjoy your mistakes”
And this inspires you to make a speech to all of your peers and their parents and the random kids who are forced to be here because they’re in band. Hey guys… *whispers* I’m so sorry.
So I’ll get back to that because this is a speech that I wrote and ya know, it’ll all come full circle.
So with the introduction to prepare you for what’s to come out of the way…. How are we?
If you’re answer isn’t horrified then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Like who’s idea was it that 18 is the legal age of adulthood? For example, yesterday, I forgot how to spell the word thumb. And I was so arrogant about it that I didn’t google it and just spent 39 minutes looking at the letters T H U M and wondering what was missing. And let me tell you there were a lot of “thumb” moments throughout high school.
And while I was busy figuring out how to get over myself and just google the correct spelling (there’s a B at the end for those who were wondering,) I was also expected to, exceed academically, apply to top schools, go through puberty, establish new friendships and relationships, do sports after school, learn how to relax while also keeping up with homework, dealing with a face that essentially looked like a slice of pepperoni pizza, plan for the future and make sure I can excel as an adult all while trying to navigate my own identity and learning about myself, who I am, and what I need to improve on. And let me tell ya, I feel like I’m 45 sometimes.
Obviously I’m exaggerating but it certainly feels that way sometimes right? Like I don’t think I’ve really, truly relaxed since freshman year and I could be projecting but I have a feeling that there are some people sitting in caps and gowns right now who agree with me. I mean I bet there are parents in the crowd who agree with me.
Isn’t that strange?
It’s a big day for us. Some are going college, some are entering the workforce, some will be going on gap year and ALL of us are roughly 18 years old which means that we are all incredibly… we’ll say inexperienced. To put things in perspective, I do not know how to peel an orange so I avoid them entirely and yet I am still going to enter the world of adulthood.
So none of us are ready. Like really, none of us are ready. And I know what you’re thinking. Look at my big floppy hat thing, of course I’m ready. And as beautiful as I’m sure you look with a square on your head, you’re not.
And that’s okay.
When you’re 18 you’re brain is still developing. In fact your brain will not be done cooking until you’re 25. I’m sure i learned that in science class somewhere but in this case I had to google that information.
By the way, if you listen closely you can hear all four of my science teachers face palming simultaneously.
But I mean I don’t blame them and I don’t blame you. That’s a scary prospect.
There are a multitude of skills that I still haven’t learned.
I don’t know how to make scrambled eggs
I never learned how to spell definelty to the point where it is misspelled on this very piece of paper! The red squiggly line is underneath it and everything.
I don’t know how to balance a checkbook or how relevant of a skill that even is anymore
AND I don’t know the exact location of chicago on a map… like in my head say this is florida and this is california it’s in this general region but I know that isn’t even close to correct.
And so basically this can only mean one thing.
We’re gonna make a lot of mistakes
And from what I noticed being here for a good chunk of my existence is that failure is not really the “it” thing here.
And I mean I get that. Failing, by definition… is not fun… and as someone who does it a LOT I can understand having a fear of it.
For example… I ran for president during my sophomore year… and given the fact that there is another Matt sitting right there, I think it’s safe to say that I did not win.
And man let me tell ya, that was a tough blow at the time.
It’s really rough to put yourself out there to your peers, have them look at you and essentially swipe left.
One of my favorite memories of the election process was seeing a poster I made with my bright and shining face on it staring back at me from the first floor bathroom trash can. Which is a fitting visual metaphor now that I think about it.
And before you start feeling sorry for me… I’m going to show you a little something.
So this is a shirt I made for the election, it reads “Haverty 4 prez”
So I made this shirt and wore it on the day I gave my presidential speech. It was not made by one of my friends, it was not worn by my supporters. I made this for myself to wear. And listen I think you’re all pretty smart people… I do not have to explain to you the massive ego you have to have to wear a shirt with YOUR name on it that YOU made.
And if you’re wondering what I said in my speech my genuine answer is I don’t remember. Because frankly it doesn’t matter. I ran for class president to validate myself. To affirm to myself that I am well liked, popular and capable, something that at the time, I could not really see in myself.
I needed a win and this was my chance. I needed to validate myself by winning what I viewed as a popularity contest.
And I mean at first I was upset. Failing in front of all of your peers is a tough blow but one that I decided to use as a learning opportunity. I learned that life is not a popularity contest and seeking the approval of others will not bring you confidence. I was in it for the wrong reasons and I did not deserve it.
Also let’s be real: WOULD I have been a good class president?
Like I wrote this section of the speech last night at 1:47am. I don’t see that working out particularly well on the bureaucratic side of things.
And these sort of lessons don’t just happen. You don’t just read them in a book, you don’t get them explained to you in a lecture, sometimes you have to fail in order to learn.
It’s all trial and error. I mean that’s basically all middle school is is just a series of failures and disgraces that once we all leave that building we’re like “let’s just never speak of that again.” But aren’t you a better person than you were then? As unfortunate as it is sometimes you have to fail and put the pieces together again to improve and grow. Because despite what you may strive for, perfection is impossible.
I mean think about it, despite the fact that you are technically the oldest and wisest you’ve ever been, you’re not done yet.
And when you move on from this place you’re going to change a lot.
I don’t know at what age it is where you only read biographies and start wearing suspenders but like, for your socks, but you will hit that age at some point! I know, it’s the dream…
But it takes time to get there and despite what has been subliminally drilled into your head since the day you took your first standardized test… high school graduation is not the end of your life… it’s barely even the start.
And that can be scary but it’s also incredibly exciting… and if you’re willing to try, you’re gonna have so many opportunities and experiences.
And when you head into the unknown… you’re probably not gonna know things… and that’s okay because that’s what makes the new so exciting.
I’ve always hated the phrase, “welp, I’m only human.” Because you’re not, “only human.” You’re human! And with that comes so much potential.
I know like…humans are destroying the earth right now, and we’re having some trouble sorting out our differences… and some of us don’t know how to peel oranges but despite all of that…we have the potential to do so much.
The human experience is one of learning and growth. And when you throw that stupid square cap off of you head and then awkwardly rummage around to look for it later… you will be taking the first step into your human experience.
So I encourage all of you not to hide that flawed, imperfect part of yourself. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, don’t be afraid of growth or change, because someone who never fails is someone who is stagnant. And you owe it to yourself to live a little.
So…with that let’s get back to what you’re all thinking about….
What’s the deal with this Welsh stone carver you mentioned before.
Well his name is Ieuan Rees, he’s a really sweet guy, great with kids and he said this quote while carving a dragon that really spoke to me and now I’m going to relay it to all of you…
“You make mistakes all the time…if you’re human, and I’m human so I make them. The problem is them solving them and that’s fun and that’s enjoyable. And if you haven’t got an answer then you find it. And I think that’s a wonderful thing because you invent things and discover things.”
You are graduating today. And that’s a big deal. You should be proud of the accomplishments you’ve made over the past four years. But you should also be proud of how much you’ve changed, and embrace the mistakes you’ve learned from and flaws you’ve overcome for you to get to where you are and who you are today.
Thank you all so much for the past four years. I wish you all the best of luck with whatever weird thing you lie about doing at our high school reunion.