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.