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Wise Words in Woodsville: Grads Told to Curb Expectations, Appreciate ‘Good Enough’

  • Class marshall Cooper Davidson, left, directs the senior boys to remove their caps for the national anthem during the Woodsville High School graduation in Woodsville, N.H., June 17, 2017. Diplomas were awarded to 53 seniors in the ceremony. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hannah Emerson, middle, greets her nephew Trystan Tavares with classmates Erin Haley, left, and Mikayla Locke, right, before the Woodsville High School graduation in Woodsville, N.H., June 17, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Graduating senior Dakota Chamberlin stepped down from the risers to play tuba with the Woodsville High School band in their performance of Celtic Farewell during graduation in Woodsville, N.H., June 17, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tyler Fullerson, lying on table, and his brother Austin, sitting up, lounge on a picnic table surrounded by classmates while waiting for their graduation ceremony to begin at Woodsville High School in Woodsville, N.H., June 17, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 17, 2017

Woodsville — Graduations are normally regarded as happy, if not joyous, occasions. But Vajl Adamkowski, who graduated at the top of his Woodsville High School class on Saturday morning, said he doesn’t know that he’ll ever feel real happiness.

“I don’t think that I am depressed,” he said in his valedictory speech, as the overcast skies over the school’s soccer field gave way to sun. But he does suffer from having “great expectations” of himself and the world, which he believes is a surefire way to never be satisfied with either.

Looking to the story of Sisyphus, the Greek mythological figure who was doomed to forever push a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down again, Adamkowski considered the difficulty of enjoying life when the boulder — and his great expectations — always seems to bring him back to square one.

He quoted the French philosopher Albert Camus, who wrote, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” If we can do this, Adamkowski said, then we can imagine ourselves being happy, too.

He added that the classic high school experience tends to breed these unhealthy expectations by pressing students not only to succeed academically, athletically and socially, but also to plan rigorously for their futures.

“High school, in the larger picture, is all about looking ahead,” he said. But when students spend their formative years “scheming out (their) lives,” it’s hard to appreciate each moment as it comes.

He urged his 52 fellow graduates to manage their own expectations of the future: Rather than asking more and more of their careers and relationships, they should instead aim for simply “being good enough,” so that their sense of validation comes not from outside sources, but from within.

Being good enough is to “allow the world to defy your expectations,” he said. “Do not seek elation, but rather stumble upon it, instead.”

In her salutatory address, Jillian Mason found one way to be satisfied with the present — by looking to the past, even to “events that happened a second ago, whether they are beautiful or tragic.”

The future history major believes that “the past has always held secrets ... memories, emotions, grand stories,” she said. And now, the Woodsville High School Class of 2017 would take its place as one such story.

“We all have the potential to make history,” she said. “We are doing it right now.”

She urged her classmates to treasure the experiences that would make up their own pasts: “Whatever your history may turn out to be,” she said, “cherish it. Learn from it.”

Rebecca Kyer closed the ceremony with her farewell address to the Class of 2017, in which she drew comparisons between the past four years at Woodsville High School and the plotline of a story: The first years of high school were the rising action, senior year was the climax and graduation represented the resolution.

But looking back even further, Kyer reflected on how the class had shared many of their early chapters together. There was childhood, when they were taught not to cut in the lunch line — “which, by the way, never sank in for some people,” she said. Then there were the preteen years: “Yeah, we were pretty cool,” she said, with more than a hint of sarcasm.

Next came adolescence, when they were able to refine themselves as the protagonists in their own stories. The chapters that come next, she said, are as of yet unwritten.

Though graduation marked the closing of the adolescent chapter, Kyer celebrated the fact that her classmates were “beginning a new volume” of their lives, and acknowledged those who had contributed to her own narrative.

“Thank you, all,” she said, “for being characters in my book.”

EmmaJean Holley can be reached at eholley@vnews.com.

Woodsville High Class of 2017

Vajl Adamkowski, University of New Hampshire; Jared Baker, Army National Guard; Zoey Ball, work; Eliza Boutin, work; Collin Boutin, work; Brandon Brown, New Hampshire Technical Institute; Sydney Butler, NHTI; Dakota Chamberlin, Plymouth State University; Brianna Champagne, Plymouth State; Mariah Corliss, gap year; Joseph D’Angelo, Syracuse University; Brenda De La Torre; Courtney Derrington, New England School of Hair Design; Taylor Eathorne, work; Hannah Emerson, Colby-Sawyer College; Kylie Enderson, Plymouth State; Tyler Fullerton, work; Spencer Guilmain, Plymouth State; Erin Haley, University of Montana; Edward Hooper; Kayla Horton, Plymouth State; Antonio Houde, Rivier University; Kayla Ingerson, Plymouth State University; Evan Irwin, work; Rebecca Kyer, Plymouth State; Brandy Laauwe, work; Mikayla Locke, NHTI; Morgan Locke; Ashley Machia, work; Kelsey Marchetti; Jillian Mason, Plymouth State; Joseph Mitchell, Green Mountain College; Devin Munroe, White Mountains Community College; Eban Noble, work; Samuel Pushee, Colby-Sawyer; Brianna Robbins, Husson University; Dennis Ruprecht Jr., University of New Hampshire; Amanda Sandvil, Empire Beauty School; John Sargent, work; Amanda Serer; Brooke Simano, work; Noah Smith; Kayne Somers, gap year; Kaila Stevens, gap year; Gabrielle Taylor, New England Institute of Technology; Eric Thornton, Lincoln Tech; Jason Turner, work; Jordan Visconti, U.S. Army/Plymouth State.