The Last Word

By Hayden McAlister | Posted: Wednesday May 2, 2018

They asked me to write a speech. I ended up writing about 12, but none really grasped the point I wanted to get across.

I was still trying to figure it out myself, honestly. A couple of days ago at three in the morning, I finally remembered some great advice given to me; just spit it out. So I wrote this speech, and it's pretty full on and tackles some heavy topics, but it is exactly what needs to be said. Some people will laugh, claim it's all a waste of time, mock me for this. But those are the ones I'm trying to reach the most. Maybe they just don't know it.


No one can know what is going on in your life. Your greatest struggle might be life itself and getting through day to day, or it might be that you didn't make your ideal sports team. You might have to deal with the loss of a loved one, or just with the loss of when we had good panini's from the school canteen. No one else can ever know the depth of your mortal struggles except you. It's your life. But I can guarantee no matter what you are going through, you can get through it. You can work through anything at all and still thrive. You might be able to do this alone, or you might need help, which there is no shame in. But what is important is to recognize when you do need help, because even though there are resources out there for you, we cannot reach you if you don't reach out. I'm standing here to confront this, head on, to give you all a moment to consider if you do need support. Far too often we brush it off, bottle everything up, until it's too late. If you feel you could benefit from support then please do not hesitate to approach me or any other of the prefects or staff, and at the very least we can help get you started.

In my time at Otago Boys' High School I've faced many difficulties - health problems, both physical and mental, as well as personal loss. But last year alone I also achieved a lot as well; at prize giving I managed five first in subjects and one second. I'm not telling you this to brag, or to parade what I have done. The opposite, actually. I'm not here for sympathy, or special treatment, I'm working through everything in my life as well as achieving my goals, and I am standing here as proof to you that you can do the same. I don't see anyone in this room that is fundamentally different. We all live equal length days, we all have the same opportunity to learn in this school, we are lucky enough to be given an even playing field. We are all being challenged in some way by life, and it is up to us to rise up to that challenge and still meet our goals. That is all that is different between us; we all have different challenges and we all have different goals. Do not be ashamed to be different, to be an individual, by definition that's what we are. Be only ashamed if you conform to expectations that do not fit to you as a person. If you want to focus on arts and humanities, maybe calculus isn't the right class for you. If you want to become a leading scientist, why bother with sporting prowess? If you are struggling with life in any way, why don't you reach out? The only person you cannot lie to is yourself. You can tell everyone else you are fine, but only you know if that's the truth. Society sets us rules, telling us it is weak to reach out. If that doesn't work for you, try making your own rules.

Every day, I have to cope. Every morning I write a journal. I start with the line, "I am the one thing in life I can control." Every evening, I write a journal, I finish with the line, "I am the one thing in life I can control." Life isn't easy, it never has been and it never will be, but it is the grandest thing we will ever undertake. Every up and down, all the laughing and crying, every moment is something to be treasured. So make every moment worth it. Get out there and do something, anything, that takes you a step closer to your goals. Live every day without hesitation, because life won't wait for you, so don't wait for life. If you've got something to do, some place to be, some goal to reach, the only thing holding you back is yourself. Every day, tell yourself: "I am the one thing in life I can control".

Thank you.


Lifeline: 0800 543 354 OR Free text 4357
National Alliance on Mental Illness: OR Call 1 (800) 273-TALK
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