PERSPECTIVES FROM GRADUATING HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS – SEPTEMBER 2021

We recognize and celebrate our graduating high school Seniors by printing their Dharma Talks.
In this issue, Vanessa Higa & Tyler Sato

Thank You to Everyone

 By Vanessa Higa

Hi everyone.!

First of all, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. 

My name is Vanessa Higa.  Yes, that Higa family, but don’t worry I’m almost the last one. 

Thank You

When I was trying to figure out what my speech would be about, multiple things popped up in my head.  I figured I could easily talk about how growing up at the Temple has taught me about impermanence and how everything changes but it’s okay cause that’s life.  I could also go on and on about how I never really noticed the role that the Temple and Buddhism has played in my life until now.  But every time I thought “Wow!  I got it.  This is what I want to leave behind as my final speech,” I always ended up writing out just what I needed to say with not enough time at the end to thank just everyone who has helped me become the person I am.  So that’s when I decided that between all the life lessons and memories that will last me a lifetime, my senior speech (which believe it or not, I haven’t been dreading, but procrastinating) will be possibly be the first thank you I tell you or the 50th time I’ve voiced my appreciation for you. 

Thank You to the Temple & Sangha

So, for as long as I’ve known and to my knowledge even before I knew it, I was welcomed whole heartedly into this amazing second family, which 50% of it was already made up of my immediate immediate family.  I remember going to Sunday Service and Dharma School making memories and friends that I didn’t fully realize would end up changing my life.  So for my first set of thank-yous, this one goes out to all my teachers, Reverend Koyama, and Reverend Mukojima.  Because although I didn’t always enjoy the car ride to Temple, you all certainly made it worth it with all of the fun stories, games, and grilled cheese.  You have all become incredibly influential people in my life and I am so grateful for that. 

Another fond memory I have from any sort of Temple event is the very confusing “Hellos” and introductions to people who seem to know me, but I have no idea who they are.  I always have the slightly awkward “I’ve seen you on your mom’s facebook” or “I’m friends with your grandpa” conversations, but even those small interactions have helped shape me.  I like to believe I’m not talkative, simply social and brought up in a community where you talk to anyone and everyone, so thank you because whether you realize it or not, those little talks have made my days brighter and allowed me to help brighten someone else’s day. 

Now thank you to all my taiko instructors because I know you think I didn’t need it, but you all have given me so much confidence not only in playing, but in general.  I have laughed countless times at practice and performances that going through those 11 years only made me wish I had more time. 

 Thank You  to My Friends

I, of course, can’t forget to thank my best friends, Sara, Megan, Kelli, Kaite, Tyler, and Chloe.  I am forever grateful for everything you’ve done for me.  We have made probably some of the best memories of my life.  Most of you I have known for almost 13 years which is crazy to me.  You all watched and helped me grow up, figuratively.  I have learned what it truly means to have lifelong friendships because of you, so thank you. 

Thank You to My Family

And now for my family.  So to all my aunts and uncles who always made sure I knew just how proud my family was of me and ensured that I would always have some of the biggest spectator groups I thank you.  And to all my cousins who made me laugh until tears were forming or took me drives till the sun came down, I thank you.  And to my grandparents who made it very apparent just who their granddaughter was, thank you for being my biggest cheerleader. 

And to Jillian, my little sister, we may have our fights, but we’re sisters regardless, so thank you for teaching me to be silly, live my life to fullest, and be someone I’m proud of because you never know who’s looking up to you.  I loved our car rides home from school and our mini-Minecraft parties.  You are going to absolutely kill it in high school, so even though I am an ocean away, I can always help with a simple phone call.  And to Caitlyn, my big sister, you will probably never understand just how grateful I am for you.  Whether it was picking me up Chick-fil-A or making me laugh at 2 am, I will never be able to repay you for everything you have done for me.  And I know you’re crying on the couch right now but don’t worry I will always be your little sister.  Thank you to my built-in best friends.  I really couldn’t have asked for better sisters. 

And to my dad you were always the one to run to Safeway at 11 pm because I forgot about a school project or picked me up a different dinner because I was a picky eater.  No matter what, you are always there for me and so I know I don’t say it enough, but thank you.  Mom, everyone says that my personality is a spitting image of yours and that could not be a bigger compliment.  We have definitely had our differences, but I am truly grateful for all the car drives to cheer and chances you’ve made me take because you only wanted what was best for me. 

Thank You to All

So thank you to my friends, teachers, family, and the Temple for making me into someone I am proud of. 

Please join me In Gassho,

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members”

Namo Amida Butsu

Namo Amida Butsu

Namo Amida Butsu

 

Make What You Want Out of Change

 By Tyler Sato

 The great Winnie the Pooh once said, “We didn’t realize we were making memories; we just knew we were just having fun.”  This is probably a quote you guys hear every year for these senior speeches, and it’s probably because it is one of the most relatable quotes as a senior in high school.  When I look back at my experience in YBA and Temple, I realize that all the great memories I made with my friends, family, and the Sangha were just fun times I had.  It also helped me see that a lot has changed since the start of my freshman year to my last days as a senior in high school, and to be thankful for those fun times.

Everything Is Constantly Changing

As most of you have heard before sometime during Temple, impermanence is the idea that everything is constantly changing.  In all of our lives, things are changing whether it is you as an individual or the world around us.  For example, I’ve gotten taller since my freshman year, I feel like I’ve matured as a person, I even have a girlfriend now, and other things like that.  And for the world, obviously, COVID-19, people fighting against police brutality and racial injustice, the Israel and Palestine situation currently, all of it is changing.  For the purpose of keeping this speech concise, I will focus on the pandemic and how Buddhism helped me learn from it.

So when the pandemic hit and everyone was put in quarantine and self-isolated, I realized that there were a lot of things about interacting with others I missed and lost.  I lost a real junior and senior prom, I lost experiencing a real senior year of high school, I lost contact with some of my friends I used to talk with everyday at school, I lost the opportunity to make new friends, and I lost the opportunity to make new memories with friends from school and at Temple.  Although I lost a lot in the past 15 months and am really sad and disappointed about it, Buddhism helped me come out with a very valuable lesson.  I learned to appreciate those things and fun times when they happen because the opportunity might not rise again, and you make what you want out of change.

Now, when I’m with my family and we’re having our funny conversations during dinner or whenever, I remember to just live in that moment and try to be grateful. I’m going off to college in the fall, so these last 2 ½ months I have with my family will be some of the last for a while.  Speaking of going off to college, all of my friends are going to college, which means some of my high school friends will also be leaving for their schools elsewhere.  I’m not sure how many times I will be able to see them again before the fall, but I’ll do my best to appreciate them for the last couple of times in person.

I briefly mentioned making what you want out of change, which is something I did during this time in quarantine.  For example, I gained a little bit of weight the past year because I didn’t go out much (this represents change) which means I have the luxury of trying to work it off (this represents the good I try to make out of the change).  A more serious but also slightly depressing example is having a fallout with a lot of my school friends over quarantine, but that means the friends I can trust are the ones that I stuck with through quarantine and the ones I lost contact with were just ones that weren’t meant to be.  Basically, it’s just a fancy way of saying try to find the good from the bad.

Be Grateful for What You Have

I believe if you keep living your life without giving your thanks or being grateful for what you have in the moment, you’ll have regrets later when you lose those things.  In the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the character Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  In the song “Let Her Go” by Passenger, the opening lyrics say you only miss something when it is gone, and in the show “The Office” Andy Bernard says, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.”  These are all good quotes that summarize what Buddhism has taught me during quarantine the past 15 months.

Shoutouts and Thank-Yous

Before I end my speech, I want to give some shoutouts and thank-yous to those who helped and supported me through my times at Temple.  Thank you to the Sangha for always being supportive and welcoming ever since I started coming to the Temple in 2010.  I know that all of your support will be there when I need it the most.  Thank you to all of my Dharma School teachers and Reverend Mukojima for teaching me all that you know through all my years at the Temple.  Shoutout to Itow, I’ve had a lot of great memories with you since the 2nd grade and I wish the best of luck to you next year as president of YBA.  Thank you to Chloe, I don’t even know if you’ll be watching this, but you’ve been one of the biggest highlights of my life, and I look forward to what the future may have for us. 

And a huge thank you to my family.  Thanks, Connor, for being a great younger brother who happened to be one of my best friends too. Thanks, Jordyn, for not only setting unrealistically high expectations for me, but also for being an outlet of wisdom and help when I need it.  Thanks, dad, for always helping me in anything when I needed it, and being supportive throughout my whole life.  Thank you, mom for everything.  You’ve always been there for me, helped me through all the low points in my life and cheered for me during the high points.  Even though I said I will do my best to be thankful for all the great memories and times we had as a family, it’ll still be difficult moving out and not being with you all anymore.