Remember, oh about a couple of months ago, how I told you I was giving you a salutatorian speech and then had to admit that was a misunderstanding and I actually was not giving a speech? Well...it turns out I lied to you twice. Sorry!
Recently, I got a call from my high school counselor that said I actually could give a speech if I wanted. Either way, it was up to me. And do you know what I said?
Do. You. Know. What. I Said?
I said yes.
Actually, instead of "yes," I'm almost positive I said "sure" with a self-assured, carefree inflection to my voice. Staring blankly at the receiver, my insides lunged to recapture that abhorrent little word, but it was too late. Some convoluted part of me had already committed to a mission of certain death.
As I'm sure you are already aware, I am not a public speaker. Aside from my Spanish class this quarter, which has eight people and requires participation, I almost never speak in class. I write just about all the time, but verbally expressing those words in front of ten (or several thousand) people is pretty terrifying.
Myself and I, we had a long talk after agreeing to make that speech. On one hand, I was of course terrified. But on the other, I was secretly proud of myself. I knew that I was probably going to stumble over my words and make an utter fool out of myself on Graduation Night. But if I'd declined, I think I would always regret it.
I want to go out and change the world, and there's no way I can do that if I can't talk in front of people. So, just to cement my stupidity for all eternity, I got two strands of my hair bleached and dyed blue the day before (to match my school colors of red and blue, of course) and started preparing.
When I first wrote my speech weeks before, I kept going over and over it, feeling oddly guilty but not knowing exactly why. Then, one night I was talking with my mom about graduation (who was dying to know what my speech was about, since I quite obstinately would not share it with anyone). She challenged me to put God in my speech, and that's when I realized exactly why it hadn't worked before. Leaving God out of my speech to please high school administrators was, in essence, lying. My Christianity is part of my identity, so giving a salutatorian speech and not mentioning my faith would be like going up there and mising part of my face or something. So I reworked it the night before the deadline and turned it in and, to my surprise, my counselor didn't cross out the "G-word" with red ink or phone me with directions to rewrite. Even during practice, he didn't say anything. I could hardly believe it.
The night before graduation, I barely slept, thinking about standing up in front of thousands of people to talk about the future, following one's passions, and God: no small task for one eighteen-year-old. By the time I ascended the stage decked out in my red robe, green Converse, and blue hair, though, all the butteflies had practically vanished. My voice was clear and I barely stumbled at all over my words.
When I returned to my seat, this huge feeling of relief washed over me. I did it. Now that I (voluntarily!) gave a salutatorian speech, I can do anything. I'm reminded of the verse Philippians 4:13, which says, "I can do all things through Christ who strenghtens me."