Clark: Run, don't sprint, through life - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Clark: Run, don't sprint, through life

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Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014 4:30 pm

Welcome family, friends, and graduates, as we come together on this momentous occasion to celebrate all the achievements that have led us to where we are sitting today.

Graduates, if you are like me, you can’t help but be overwhelmed with anticipation thinking of all the opportunities that will become available to us outside of high school. However, with all this excitement comes a certain degree of apprehension. For some of us, learning how to navigate the life before you. Or apprehension for others of what will happen when your parents are no longer there and responsibility is suddenly flung toward you like Mr. Tawney’s baseball bat. But what we all have in common is that, so often, this apprehension translates to fear.

But what I believe is the key to rising above these uncertainties and achieving success is not about an SAT score, GPA, or how ‘smart’ society deems someone. In fact, having God-given talent isn’t necessarily what will get you through life when the going gets tough. Instead, I would like to suggest to you today that something deep within the indomitable human spirit is a resilience necessary when life begins to throw curve balls- and this is ‘grit’. Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth advocates, “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint”.

Being a runner myself, I can’t help but comparing most aspects of life to running in ways that generally just leave people confused. However, if there is any sport that encompasses the idea of physical and mental grit, I would attest to it being long-distance running.

Despite the race, the starting line is always the same: I’m amidst a bunch of half-naked strangers, packed into a small gated-off area like a herd of cattle. Lunging into a beginning stance, a sense of hopelessness overcomes me and I know there is nothing more I can do. No amount of stretching, strides, or deep breathes will matter anymore now, as the starting gun is seconds from going off. Ironically, the whole race really isn’t about that moment at all, but instead about all of the miles of difficult training put in weeks, or months ahead of time.

But … when the gun eventually does go off, there are always those people who sprint out of the starting line as fast as they can, elbowing their way to the front. These are the same people, mind you, that write their names on their foreheads or arms so strangers will inquisitively yell out their names when they run by. Or should I say ‘jog’ or perhaps after a few more meters, are doing that hip-shaking speed walk. You see, these competitors must have forgotten they did not enter a 400 meter fun run but instead have 12 miles left in a half marathon. Soon, they are passed up by those who have really put in the miles to train for the race. Often times they break down, letting their obstacles define them. On the contrary, their competitors are sacrificing by waking up before the sun on a weekend morning, or going to the gym late at night because they understand that success takes grit.

I believe in here lies the beauty of running and it’s parallel in life as a whole — you get out of it what you put into it. 

Through growing up, we have heard time and time again, to “dream big” in order to “achieve anything you set your mind to”. While this is true, not as often do we hear “you can achieve anything but, if you are aiming high enough, it is going to take a lot of hard work”.

One teacher, in particular, that I believe instills this idea of resilience in her students is Mrs. Bunger. I have so much respect for her intolerance of letting students take the easy way out and for not allowing quitting to be an option. Through her, I have learned that high school isn’t all about academics. Sure, differentiation and integration could…(maybe)… come in handy someday, but what she has really taught is that sticking with short term pain for long term gain is what will carry us through life. Without teachers like Mrs. Bunger and those at Desert Ridge, we wouldn’t be sitting here where we are today. Similarly we have coaches, councilors, friends, and, of course, our parents to thank for all of their continued support in steering us through life.

As I reflect on the experiences I have had at Desert Ridge High over the past four years, I couldn’t consider myself to be any more blessed. I will miss my student council family, being able to meet friends at the jag statue, and of course being brainwashed, in geology, by Mr. Locey into loving rocks.

And so, class of 2014, when the going gets tough, when you are scoffed at, or looked down upon because of having less experience, when self-doubt makes giving up the easiest thing to do … how will you react? Because it is in moments of failure, despair and adversity, that we will learn to cope and adapt to changing situations with class- to deal with life. So invest in discovering grit, in being an individual of endurance in putting in the miles now to stick with your goals, because our race is about to begin.

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