Thursday, June 5, 2014


The "selfie" they sent me on their IB English exam day. <3
Dear Austin, Noah, Paul, Julia, Tyler, Silas, Josh, Bryce, Jaime, and Josie, 

I went back and forth on the idea of sharing my own "Say Something" final talk. On one hand, this is YOUR final. I've said enough already. I shouldn't add anything more. But at the risk of overkill, I felt the weight of the realization that after today, there will be no more 2B blocks spent with your sweet faces looking up at me from your seats there. So, forgive me. I'm taking a little extra time to speak with you, one last time. Here's my "Say Something" final exam. 

Yesterday, I was 18 years old, graduating from high school. Yesterday, I was 19 years old, telling my parents their baby was moving to NH for the summer to live with three of my best friends--I’d work retail and save money for college. Yeah right. I spent most of my paycheck on clothes thanks to my employee discount. I was the most fashionable sophomore on campus that fall! It was also the summer I finally accepted Mr. Walker's proposal and got engaged. Oh my God. No more flirting,  courting attention without intention. What was I thinking? I’d had such fun when he was away at college?! ha!  Well, I guess I knew a good man when I saw one. I needed to keep him around for the long haul. Best decision of my life right there. Best decision of his life too--after all, I'm "Freem the Dream"-- forever and always, right?!

Yesterday I was approaching my 21st birthday, walking down the aisle on my Dad’s arm, wearing my Mom's own wedding gown, smirking and suddenly feeling incredibly bashful--I suddenly couldn’t look up at Eric as we recited our vows. I’d been dating him for nearly six years--what was up with that?! 

Yesterday I was 22 years old, graduating from college and enrolling in grad school. Yesterday I started teaching at GNGHS. Yesterday I became a mom at age 23. Yesterday I gave birth to a second daughter at age 27 and then yesterday I had a son at age 31. Well, you get the idea. 

The truth is, it really does feel like yesterday. Nowadays I sometimes get up in the morning, make my way into the bathroom and I do a double take as I look into the mirror. WHO THE HELL IS THAT?!  I think. When did I get this old? I actually think I’m going to see my 18 year old self in the mirror. You can imagine the shock I get on a daily basis. I get kind of achey at times--a little sciatica in my back and legs, a little arthritis in my hands. And sometime after yesterday, maybe overnight, I'm not sure? I gained 40 pounds. I don’t know how that happened but I’m told it might have something to do with those three young adults who call me Mom. So, it’s a goal of mine to lose that weight by next June. Friend me on Facebook and scold me when you see me posting pictures of my homemade whoopie pies, okay?!

But in all seriousness, it’s a blessing to get older. It’s a privilege denied to too many. I know this for a fact. I’ve lost some former students to accidents, diseases, and most devastating to me, to suicide. I see those teens still--right in here--and I nod to them every once in awhile--they too were once so vibrantly alive. 

I don’t mean to turn morbid. I just want to emphasize to you all that we don’t know what the future holds for us--whether we’re 18, 22, 31 or 46. What matters most is that we live, truly live each day that we’re given. Like Tyler said, make those breaths count. Like Josie said, live authentically with the right attitude and most importantly, with awareness. Oh you're all so wise already with the words you've spoken this week in your own final talks--far more so than I was at 18, or so I I remember. 

As you know, I lost my Dad last June. As Father’s day weekend approaches again, I’m trying very hard to remain calm and at peace. But I am constantly reminded of my Dad’s last words. After his heart attack he was being flown to a bigger hospital in one of those Life Flight helicopters when he suddenly opened his eyes, looked out the window to the bright blue sky and said, “It’s a beautiful day”. I know I’m still grieving his death--because, aww, I miss him so damn much--and I’m grieving the ongoing loss of my Mom to her dementia too, but I can also acknowledge that I have become a stronger person in the midst of these losses, especially since last year. I strive to find the beauty in each day. I laugh more heartily. I listen more intently. I’m a better person--more patient, more forgiving. I’ve got a much better perspective on everything nowadays. More faith too. It’s my way of honoring the life that my Mom and Dad gave me. Each day is a beautiful day--it doesn’t matter whether I’m correcting piles of papers or whether I’m outside playing basketball (badly) with my family. I’m more aware of my days. I’m more grateful for my life.

Yesterday, I welcomed 10 IB students into my classroom for the first time. And now, suddenly, (or as they tell me, it’s now two years later), it’s the last day before you all move on to college. Once again, a set of teens I’ve spent my days with will move on and I’ll remain in high school. But something tells me, this is where I’m meant to be. Because no matter what I see in the mirror each day, no matter what new aches and pains I feel, I’m still 18 at heart--yep, a bit immature for sure, but so very passionate and hopeful about the future. No matter the losses I face, each and every day is still a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL day. 

Thank you for being a part of my yesterdays for the past two years. I love you, all. 

Mrs. Walker

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