Being Keynote Speaker Has Changed My Life

On June 5th, the class of 2013 blessed me with the opportunity to do #52 on my bucket list. I was able to speak in front of thousands of people by being their keynote speaker. It was an amazing opportunity, and the process of getting the speech done was quite the chore.

You see, it was a totally different style of writing compared to what I was use to. I had to write with even more perfection than ever because if I made one slip, everyone in that audience would know that I was a screw up.

The whole process began in March. After classes finished for the day, and right before I went running to change to get ready to coach, three girls from student council came into my room with grins on their faces. I knew that they were up to no good, and I paused to stare at them.

“Ladies, what are you up to?”

Ashleigh was the first to speak.

“Oh, nothing. We were hoping you could do us a favor.”

For those of you not involved with high schoolers on a daily basis, when you hear that phrase, you really don’t know what “favor” is coming next. It might be a letter of recommendation to begging for a dollar, you just don’t know. With much regret, I had to follow up with the statement, “What do you need, ladies…”

Allia, who has the loudest voice of the group (actually, of the whole senior class) stated the request to be commencement speaker. I was shocked, and I gave them a funny look before I replied.

“Are you sure that you want ME to speak? Ya’ll know that I am kind of crazy.”

The girls giggled and assured me that I was the right choice. I accepted.

It took quite a bit of time to figure out what I wanted to talk about. Actually, I didn’t come up with the final concept of my speech until a week before commencement day. I couldn’t find a way to express myself the way that made me happy. I looked up famous quotes, read other speeches, watched videos, but nothing made me feel that it was the right angle.

Finally, while laying in bed, it struck me. I picked up a pen and my purple pen at 2:00 AM. It’s odd when inspiration hits, because when it does, I can’t help myself and I had to write. I had to write, and it doesn’t matter the time. I started to brainstorm, and draw circles with themes to work with, and suddenly things started to come together.

I stuck to what made me the person who I am. I am a poet, and I would make sure to let the world know that I loved my kids and was confident enough to express myself the best way I knew how. I wrote off and on for many hours, and slowly, the final product was developed.

I read it to my juniors, and they said that it was the “realest” poem they had heard, and I realized that I was ready.

I must say that it was one of the best experiences that I have had in my life. It was life changing, because people let me know afterwards that I had a voice that needed to be heard. I had never had complete strangers come up to me and say such kind words. I received emails, hugs, praise, and notes that made me realize that the skills that my family and Carman-Ainsworth provided me helped me to become a unique individual.

Walking up to that microphone made me feel reborn as a writer and a role model. It let me know that when the opportunity comes, you have to take it and enjoy each part of the moment.

The best part of the whole thing came after graduates walked through the congrats tunnel. After students turn their tassels, all the teachers go to the back, line up, and clap for the new members of the real world. Students are always so surprised when this happens, and it always leads to hugs, high fives, and well wishes.

One senior that I had never met before ran up to me and gave me a hug. As long as I live, I won’t forget what she said to me. While hugging me, she leaned in my ear and said, “You are my inspiration. Thank you, and I am going to work to be just like you.”

This event has changed my life.

My Nerves are Shaky…

Sometimes, I feel that I need to use some old timers’ terminology from the family to explain my feelings about the world around me. I remember my mother quoting the older generation of her family often when I was younger. My Mom, Anita, was a young mother for her time (she was married at 19, had me at 20, and my siblings at 22 and 24) but she has always had an older soul when it came to her phrases. My favorite was, “My nerves are shaky.”

I didn’t quite get what she meant by this until I became older and wiser. She was right, there are events that make you really feel like every nerve in your body is quivering, and you have to warn people before you have some kind of emotional outburst. My mother would usually say this phrase after we had “gotten on her last nerve” (another one of my favorite sayings by my dearest mother) or the stress of the world was almost too much to handle. People, events, lack of time, mishaps, and the uncertainty of what is to come next are things that made mother, and now me, nerves a little shaky.

My nerves are shaky for a couple reasons:

Last week was exams. A time where children have to show the information that they have learned in the past…5 months, and to display to school districts that they listened, they comprehended the information, and that they proudly are ready to display it for all the world to see. The complete opposite happens every year. I have students, who walk out, talking about how easy the exam was, come back the following week to see that they completely bombed each and every section of the exam. Of course, this means that the test was wrong, and so was the answer key, and so was the information that the teacher gave on the study guide, the power points, the whole semester. You see, everyone and everything is wrong, except the child. My nerves become shaky because I can’t comment the way that I want, because I am a professional and know that youth today what instant gratification, even if it is not earned. So now, after students have left the room and I have heard excuse after excuse of their poor performance, and whining for me to save them, I realized that my nerves are quite shaky.

This new book has my nerves shaking too, but in a good way. I am excited to see where this book takes me, and hope that it soars me to new heights as a writer, and, more importantly, as a person. I wonder what people will think of what I write down. I wonder what my family will think when they read the “steamy” poems (sorry Mom and Dad, but it’s a great topic to write about). I wonder if people will see me differently because I am now a published author. My nerves are working overtime, but I want to enjoy all the aspects of this grand opportunity. I want to have people frown at my choice of topics, to examine my perspective, to laugh at my imagery, to question our existence, and to have that moment of signing someone’s book to make it a cherished object of their affection. All of these thoughts have me working in overdrive emotionally, but I don’t mind my nerves being shaky with this.

My mother asked me this weekend if I wrote any negative poems about her. I told her I would never do that to her. You can’t do that to true inspirations. Plus, I different don’t want to make her nerves to start shaking.