Life After Pause

a commencement address

Sarah Michalak delivered this commencement address at the graduation ceremony on May 14, 2022.

I would like to start off by saying congratulations to the Class of 2022, and all the friends, parents, and staff that have gotten us here. If you had asked us four years ago what it would take to get us to this day, I can guarantee no one would have been able to guess. That’s why it is my honor to be able to speak today on what hasor in our case, hasn’t–happened in these last 4 years, what this means for our future, and continuing on with Life after Pause.

Life started out fairly normal, or at least, as normal as a school of 2,000 teenagers can make it. Freshman and sophomore year, we got a hang of this whole “high school thing” first period gym–dunked on by seniors in volleyball; third hour commons–taunted by the purple screens of NoRedInk; fifth hour passing period–avoiding foyer congestion through the hidden stairwells. We made a name and a home for ourselves, and it was looking bright. 

Until second semester. In an ironic twist, it was March, Friday the 13, of 2020.

Band concerts, track meets, classes, canceled. The world hit pause, our activities stuck like a photograph in time.  Two weeks, they said. It’ll be fine,  they said. Hey, it’s an extra week of Spring Break!  they said. It felt like forever, but we remained optimistic. School would be normal by the fall, right?


Well, the world stayed paused a bit longer than we thought. Zoom school was a mess of rolling out of bed just to broadcast your ceiling fan to the world. Our dates were pushed back until they didn’t exist (The Class of 2022 misses you, Junior year Prom!) And dare I say it, for the first time ever, a group of teenagers were actually  excited to go back to school. Don’t get me wrong Parents and Siblings: we adore you. But it’s a bit atypical to see you as much as we usually see teachers.

 But I don’t need to tell you how this story goes. 792 days later, here we are.

We are all here, as one graduating class, together, in-person at one ceremony. That’s not something the past two classes can say.

Opportunities are fleeting, and we can spend our whole lives saying that we’ll do it tomorrow, but if these past two years have proven anything, it’s that life is as unpredictable as the school’s fire alarms.

Tomorrow doesn’t always come the way you envision it. We cannot place our life on hold, pausing ourselves from achieving our ambitions. If you’ve learned anything from this skewed–abnormal–globally-bizarre–experience we called high school let it be that tomorrow is a promise, not a guarantee. And if there’s one thing I know to be true about the Class of ‘22,  it’s that we will continue to grab life by the reins and steer ourselves exactly where we want to go today. Because life is too short, a truth we are all too aware of, a truth that makes us even more dedicated to crafting our lives into exactly what we want them to be. Thank you all, and remember: today is your day and you’ve only got one try. It’s time to hit play.