Ralph Waldo Emerson once questioned:  What if the stars should appear one night in a thousand years? People would stop everything to admire the charm and rarity of the stars. No one would sleep. People would go crazy simply imagining how fascinating it is going to be.

But the stars do come out every night, and what do we do? Watch TV, play video games, go on the Internet, update Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We forget quickly and disregard too easily some of the most simplistic-yet-remarkable things in our lives.

If there is one piece of advice I could give to you all, it is this: Remind yourself to be present. Not only in school, but in family, friendships, faith and love.

Personally, there are many times I have missed out because I was anticipating the future or dwelling on the past instead of admiring the present. Sitting in my starting blocks at a track meet, I have wondered how my race is going to turn out before the starter has even pulled the trigger. Those are never good races.

At church, I have sat counting ceiling tiles instead of engaging in the Gospel and the homily. Those are never good masses for me.

My point is that when we disengage from what we are doing — here and now — we may end up selling ourselves short. Being present doesn’t mean you can’t reminisce about the past or be excited for the future.

If you are reminiscing about the past, first remember the good things. Like:

• When Megan Hoxtell got stuck in a locker in junior high.

• When Mr. Brennan ranted about the Russian navy.

• When our girls basketball team played ball with the most passion and dedication I have ever witnessed at every single game this season.

• When the boys and girls cross-country teams qualified for state six years in a row.

• Mrs. Spohn’s “mint Mondays” or Mr. Jepsen’s “GADEV’s!”

• And even when I accidentally pulled the fire extinguisher in the school van.

But when you look at the past, don’t shy away from lessons learned, because we can always improve. I mean, I definitely won’t be pulling fire extinguishers inside a van any time soon.

Finally, if you look to the future, expect the best for yourself. Our class, the Class of 2014, is a group of determined, positive, motivated and charming students. We will go far someday.

But right now, let’s just be here, with each other. Present.



This article was excerpted from a speech given by the writer, a 2014 graduate of Albany (Minn.) High School, at May 23 commencement exercises. The full text originally appeared in the St. Cloud Times.