2012 Area High School Commencement Address: : Leave your comfort zone and choose your own adventure

By Annie Ploof, Guest Columnist

Well, guys, it’s been a fun past few years, huh? I wish you the best of luck, and I hope to see you around.

I’m just kidding.

I would first like to share with you a quote that I thought kind of related to all of us. It’s by Alan Alda, he said, “You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing, but what you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.”

Think about that for a second — your life is going to change from routine and security to inconsistency and uncertainty, but the best thing about riskiness is you discover what you want and have passion for.

After today, none of us ever have to go to school again, if we don’t want to. Eventually we’ll come to the realization that we have graduated. Some may have already accepted it and are eager to move on, others may comprehend it right now as you look to someone near you and think, “I might never see that person again,” and for others it may take them until they’re 30 when they wake up one day still sleeping on their parents’ couch.

As I look back on our life together I think of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books where the author asks you a question and if your answer is “no” they tell you to turn to page 20, and if you say “yes” you turn to page 37. Each choice building on one another giving the reader the ability to choose his or her own unique ending.

We all contemplate the “what ifs,” but some force — either fate, destiny, life, whatever —has brought us here today. I’m no sure how to compare this feeling. I feel accomplished but apprehensive of what the future holds. Just like a book, you never know what you are going to read next.

That’s the funny thing about life, no one knows what’s coming next. Unlike all our previous endeavors, where we had strict curriculums, rules to adhere to, and our classmates to lean on, now we need to take all the lessons and experiences we have learned from and find ourselves.

The last time we were all on the same page, we were stepping into kindergarten. Thinking back to our elementary years being so naive and carefree. Thinking if we swung on the swing sets in unison we would be married. Thinking that sharing your cookie was the most generous thing to do in this world. Having our biggest projects be cutting on dotted lines and gluing pieces together. Racing to do mad minutes and getting a sticky dot for our bubble gum machines. Picking dandelions for our teachers. Sliding into the big puddle of water at the end of the slide so we had to go to the nurse’s office for pants and underwear. Everyone having dirty hands and boogers, but nobody even caring. Slobbering all over the water fountains when we got a drink. Kids farting and everyone dying of laughter —wait that still happens today. Leaving our parents for more than one night to go to Deep Portage with our grade, chasing each other on the monkey bars, doing the egg drop or launching our rockets and being so proud that we did it. Stealing clocks or singing kumbaya and getting sent to the principal’s office because we weren’t allowed on the snow hill. Participating in track and field days or reading June B. Jones books and thinking we were so cool.

We learned a lot of valuable lessons like share, play fair, don’t hit people, put things back where you found them, say you’re sorry when you hurt someone, wash your hands before you eat and flush.

Then it was time for us to break away from our single file lines and snack time as we headed to the enormous middle school, where we were introduced to multiple teachers and pimples. We were threatened with, “they won’t let you do this in high school.”

Ordinary conversations were people complaining about burpies or skipping track after school to walk around town. Getting free days and playing DDR. Asking inappropriate questions in sex ed and thinking we were so funny. Going to football games and sitting in the upper left hand corner of the bleachers, not even watching the games. Eighth grade olympics, sitting on MSN chatting with 15 people at a time after a dance. People going to the extreme measures to make a point about bathroom passes. Passing notes to each other saying pointless things like “What’s up?” or “ttyl,” and thinking we were cool. Devouring Bosco sticks and Triple XL cookies at lunch and discussing where we were going to get ready before the dance.

High school came and hit most of us like a brick wall, academically. Starting out we didn’t really understand what high school was about and attempted our sludge or grammar homework without much success. Then we all began to mature, people began finding themselves and joining clubs and sports. We focused a little more on our school work and even managed meeting some new faces.

After a while, school became pretty monotonous so we entertained ourselves sending e-mail from Pintrest, imitating teachers like Mr. Hanowski saying, “Holy cow hey,” or Stockard talking about positive externalities and saying “Great stuff, great stuff.”

Doing the slap and leather with Haas, people magically forgetting how to park whenever there was snow in the parking lot, squishing as many people as possible in the elevator when a friend had an injury, tripping up the stairs and making a complete fool of yourself, seeing someone dead in the hallway and knowing they just went hard during workout Wednesday.

We started understanding what we could get away with, finding any excuse we could to get out of class, even it was only for two minutes. We knew which teachers we could push and which ones we could get off task.

Senior year came, and we all knew we called the shots, making trips to BK for some breakfast, being crowned the loudest grade at homecoming even though we knew we’d get it. School is frustrating, but it is going to help each of us with even more upsetting problems than finding the derivative.

Change is inevitable from here on out. Never again will the bell ring and hundreds of students be heard into the hallways and go to their next class, never again will you drive into a parking lot and see a rowdy party going on in the morning on the far left, never again will the school ask you to cover your shoulders or put different shorts on. Never again will teachers provide textbooks; instead you’ll pay hundreds of dollars on books you’ll want to burn. Instead of going on Facebook to comment on pictures of one another, you’ll go on to creep on what everyone’s life is like.

Never again will things be the same.

Travel the world, be open to meeting new people and adopting new ideas, don’t sit in the library on a Friday night studying, get out and experience different things, and be a little crazy. See what this beautiful world has to offer, believe in yourself and trust yourselves because I believe in all of you.

Thirteen years after stepping into your kindergarten class for the first time, our class is once again on the same page, ready to take the biggest steps of our lives. We start a new life filled with new choices and different experiences when we leave this gym.

Wise words from Mr. Tabatt: Smile more than you frown, keep your family a priority, laugh often, be a good person (it’s the only chance you get) and, most importantly, always remember where you came from.

I challenge you all to start fresh when you throw your hats in the air, leave anything that has been bothering you or scaring you or discouraging you up in the air and let it float away. I wish you all the best of luck, I hope our paths cross in the future, and I can smile at your accomplishments.

Thank you to all the amazing teachers who have put up with our senior slack and have inspired us in one way or another, thank you to parents for keeping us motivated and being such good role models to us and thank you class of 2012, for making the first two decades of our lives so unique and memorable.

Congratulations, class of 2012. We all have the ability to “Choose Your Own Adventure.” Let’s make it happen.

Annie Ploof is a 2012 graduate of Little Falls Community High School. She gave one of the commencement addresses at her graduation ceremony.