Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Andrew Scott’s graduation speech: ‘Never forget the cringe. It has made you who you are.’

Andrew Scott was one of three seniors selected to give a speech at the Pelham Memorial High School graduation on Saturday. (Cristina Stefanizzi)

There is a word that gets passed around quite often in the modern age: cringe. Despicable, isn’t it? Criiiiinggge. The word itself gives you that face that you wear every time you remember that moment when you were younger and did something really stupid and looked like a complete idiot. That was cringe. Although, I personally think that cringe gets a bad rep. Maybe cringe is good. Let me give you an example. I am giving you this speech now, a speech that has been edited, peer reviewed, as flawless and refined as I could possibly make it. It sounds… well, it should sound perfect. However, instead of looking at me orating at you all now, I want you to think back to the person writing this speech in room 237 on May 3, 10:39 in the morning, just after waking up from only six hours of sleep to put on the first clothes he found, to drive down the Hutch and to park on Pelhamdale, to sprint past the intersection, to play violin at 7:35 a.m., three minutes late, then to go from class to class to attempt to process insane calculus theorems and over-the-top quantum physics, and now, that kid, tired out of his mind, with disheveled hair, mismatched clothes and baggy eyes, sits at a desk in a classroom filled with students who he thinks are wonderful, kind, talented, and certainly, incredibly creative. He now has to write an entire speech on why they are so amazing. Needless to say, it’s a bit hard for him. In fact, part of him is scared he may come off as cringe. So what does he do? He thinks back.

All the way back to elementary school, when he knew way, way too little and was way, way too cringe. And what his brain decided to remember is the really, and I mean, really terrible original story he had written in fifth grade that he had shared with his friends. In looking back, he figures how the writing was literally, literally abysmal. There was probably no grammar, half of the word choices made no sense, it carried no emotion to the audience, it did not leave the readers guessing, and the plot did not have holes because it did not exist. It was the essence of cringe. But even though his writing was just a tad bit less than optimal, the people around him were so supportive. That kid can tell you right now that they were not supportive because it was a work of art. Because it was not. They were saying it because they wanted creativity to thrive. And now, this kid took writing seminar, creative writing, he wants to write stories, plays, musicals, so much. And he shares all of his writing, even the shoddy, the work-in-progress, definitely-needs-to-be-entirely-changed drafts, with this school that he writes in now.

The kid writing this speech then remembers middle school jazz band. Anyone who remembers middle school jazz band remembers how bad they were in middle school jazz band. For those who haven’t been to the school’s band concerts, players in the jazz band improvise, make up their own solos for some of the pieces, on the spot, without music. Mr. Van Bochove, the band teacher, had to get someone else to come into the school because the kids there were that bad at improvising. When that man came, he would set up a microphone near the drums and pianos in the corner of the band room, and the kids left their usual, row-by-row formation to crowd around this microphone and wait for whoever was brave enough, or foolish enough, to get up and try and play something from the soul. The drums start up, the piano joins along and everyone. Sits there. And waits. For someone… else to get up. No one wants to be the first. To this day, that kid is still so thankful to whomever was the brave instrumentalist who got up and played first. No, it wasn’t good. But it was real. It was from that brave kid’s heart. Everyone in that room watched intently as he cracked or squeaked or somehow dropped his instrument on the ground or whatever awful things happened, and we all applauded him. Suddenly, another kid got up, and tried their hardest, too, and it was probably even worse. But we applauded them, too. The kid who is writing this speech even remembers himself getting up, and panicking so bad that he just ran away in the middle of a phrase. It was not good. But there was music not just played but being made in that band room. Everyone embraced the improv. After that day, improv felt fun. The fear of getting up and playing for everyone was lifted like a curse, and now, if you were to go to a band concert, nearly every kid in that jazz band gets up and plays their heart out. Saxophones, trombones, flutes and trumpets all strut up to that mic. The middle school gym in this school, echoey as it is, is full of the most soul-filled music. Those kids are so much braver now than in that timid middle school jazz band.

That kid thinks back to so many different memories. All of the watercolor, sharpie, at-home art projects he’s seen from extremely proud artists, all of the over-the-top celebrations over what, at the time, felt like incredible athletic feats. All of the Friday Night Lives, the Pelham Children’s Theater. All of the clothes, the songs and the dances, the clubs and the fairs. All the moments that the people in his grade look back and think, “Oh my gosh that is so cringe. Please do not talk about that.” It is all cringe. But look at where we all are now. Graduating high school with flying colors. Each person as creative as the next.

As we all start to head off into new places in the world, we are bound to run into new communities. Communities that do not know who we are, where we came from and all the cringe things we did way back when we were younger. Some people take that as a challenge. A challenge to keep a perfect reputation of never being embarrassing, never making a single mistake, never being cringe. That boy writing that essay in that room has felt cringe before. He knows how bad it feels. But he concludes his first draft of that essay, and soon he will show it to his teacher, and later, under a tent, and even after, as you leave this high school behind, he will implore you to be cringe. As much as that fear of being cringe comes at you in full force, embrace it. Live in it. Never forget the cringe. Even if you quit jazz band after eighth grade, never forget the cringe. Even if you missed the easiest goal of your life in freshman year, never forget the cringe. Even if (as a random example) you have never taken an art class and decided to start drawing for your physics teacher on all of your exams, and you know that, in the very, very near future, you will immediately feel incredibly cringe about what you have done. Never forget the cringe. It has made you who you are.

Congratulations to the Class of 2024.

Andrew Scott was one of three students chosen to speak at Saturday’s Pelham Memorial High School graduation ceremony.

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    louise lantelmeJun 27, 2024 at 4:45 pm

    nicely done. i still cringe and i am 77 years old.