"Alright, Alright, Alright" by Rachel Kennedy '17

Dear Dad,

Your head just jerked up the way I thought it would. When we discussed what this speech should be about, you suggested an open letter to Mommy. I heard what you said, and decided to do the opposite, a pattern I have followed for most of my life. I thought it would be fitting to channel Mommy another way: by celebrating the man she loved, someone I have neglected to properly acknowledge. You have sacrificed more than I can imagine, as all the parents sitting in this audience have for their kids. Those sacrifices granted me a great education at a school I am amazed I ever got into, with a community I am now devastated to leave. Today is as much about you as it is about me, so hold on tight.

Over the years, letters have been our family’s go to form of communication. Not emails, not texts, but hand written letters. Ms. Harrison, and any other teacher who has had to grade a written test of mine are probably stunned right now; they thought my illegible handwriting signified a life without pens and papers. But no. When I was 7, I wrote declaring to you that it was time my twin brother and I get separate bedrooms. When I was 10, I wrote begging you to let me stay up past my bedtime so I could watch the season finale of American Idol. When I was 12, I wrote from camp, asking you to send a package of Gushers and Oreos.

Now I am 18, and I just want you to listen. Of all the letters I have written to you, I think very few, if any, have been ones expressing gratitude. As I look back on my time at Nobles, and these last 6 years, there have been two traits of yours that I believe got me to the finish line. I want to take this time to commend your ability to be vulnerable and to forgive.

Let’s start with vulnerability. Your ability to be comfortable showing emotion is probably your best asset. As our family grappled with Mom’s death, you revealed your own strength by openly acknowledging your pain, and you always encouraged us to do the same. This tradition has continued, through good and through bad. You never fail to have the loudest laugh in the room, have tears stream down your cheeks whenever and wherever Until You Come Back to Me by Aretha Franklin comes on, or shake the house with your yell when I forget to do the dishes. It is never any secret where you are at and how you’re feeling.

I never noticed how impressive this was until my first year at Nobles. As a 7th grader, I didn’t want anyone to know how insecure and unequipped I felt around the smarter, prettier, funnier and more confident kids that I now went to school with. I put on a smile in an attempt to appear as happy and together as everyone else here seemed to be. That mask never really fit, and was cracked one day, when the Middle School Core Office wrapped caution tape around my incredibly messy cubby: the stream of papers,  pencils and wrappers that kept flying onto the floor blew my cover and exposed one of my largest insecurities: my inability to stay organized. While this could have been a traumatic event that made me never want to return to the walls of Pratt Middle School, it actually was the moment I started to feel that Nobles could become my home. You raised me in an environment where flaws were not hidden, but met with humor and acceptance and I was able to see that I went to a school where the same could be true.

The second trait of yours that has kept me afloat is your ability to forgive. I have not been an easy kid raise. I lose things, including my phone, and have a penchant for being late, and for breaking rules. These are only some of the downfalls of my personality that I am trying to work on, but it has not been without help, or many second chances. All parents have to accept their kids’ mistakes as a part of them, but I think I have given you an above average number of things to look past. Even after all the apology letters I have written you, you still have the ability to put my blunders behind me, and assist me in my search of a better self. Some of the moments that I have felt closest to you have been the ones when I have disappointed you most. You seem to be at your best when I am at my worst. I did not expect you to handle my teenage years with such perspective and grace, and while you have had to endure many apologies of mine over the years, I have to issue one more. The Class of 2017 would not be pleased if I did not publicly acknowledge the fact that you still love me despite my inability to pass a drivers test, and the fact that I’ve created an uber bill that made retirement a bit father away for you. So Dad, I am sorry about that, but know that the 129 kids sitting on either side of me tried to lighten the load by offering me rides, and more support than I could have asked for over the last six years.

A wise man once said Nobles becomes each student’s res, home, and forever square one if they allow it to. I would have never chosen vulnerability over comfort, had you not modeled it. I would have never learned how to forgive myself for my shortcomings had you not accepted them in me first. You always tell me to be concise, but that would not have done the job you have done justice. The beautiful life I live is a product of your resilience and patience. You have been in my corner every step of the way, even when I haven’t been in yours. When you say Mommy is proud of me, know that she is even prouder of you.

I love you, Dad. Thanks for all of it.

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"Alright, Alright, Alright" by Rachel Kennedy '17