On September 16, I will be somewhere I haven’t been since I was 18. I will be on the stage at once was Norwood High School’s auditorium. When I was there, it was Norwood High School’s auditorium.
I do believe I was twirling a baton and trying out for some skit in a show.
Our act didn’t make the show.
We made fun of cheerleaders. I am not sure how or why, but given the age, it was probably based on insecurity and jealousy, more than talent or humor.
But this time, I will be making a few remarks to the students.
I have been pondering what to say … what not to say, how to say it and doing anything but picturing the audience naked, as per speech class instructions.
Did I ever think I would be doing something like this?
Yes and no.
A stone reader in Ireland once told me that I would speak before big groups of people, sharing my stories.
In a way, I thought that was rubbish, but in another way, I have always known that sharing my stories was what I was about … I just didn’t know how or where it would be done.
And it did happen, at least to a certain extent.
In the years since I have spoken to some audiences and groups and shared my stories of life. I am not a “public speaker” by any means. But I have done it enough to know that it makes me do one thing. Sweat.
It could be a meat locker, yet I would sweat. I think that is where my nerves come out.
It is quite attractive.
But did I think I would ever return to my high school as a “Distinguished Alumni?”
Good granola bars … no.
I was not a good student. I was not in Nation Honor Society. I actually think I graduated in the bottom half of my class. And I didn’t like high school.
There were a number of reasons. They mostly had to do with me, some things that were going on in my family, that time of life, me, again, and the fact that I didn’t have a clue.
But even then, in the deepest part of me, I knew I had something. Not necessarily something special, but that I was more than I was then. I knew there was something deep inside me that hadn’t been uncovered.
It took years and years of living before I figured it out.
What I figured out, and what became something I had a grasp on and worked to improve, was the fact that I had a voice. Not a singing voice, good gravel … I can’t sing worth a hornet’s nest. But I do have a voice.
A writer’s voice.
That seed was planted in high school. Not that any teacher told me that I was a decent writer, because I wasn’t. I was the “How are you? I am fine?” type of writer. I dint’ know how to tell a story, strucre a story or write squat.
In my senior year, I had an English teach named Mrs. Alley, or Ally, I don’t remember how it was spelled. I just know that she taught us how to structure a paper. She also laughed at me and didn’t look at me with disdain that I wasn’t one of my sisters, who were much better students than I.
I took what she taught me to Ohio University, and used what she had taught us, and did ok.
Still, I didn’t study writing in college and the only things I wrote, were in response to what I was told to write.
Thinking on my own was not my forte. It had not been taught or necessarily appreciated. It was the era of memorization and rote.
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties when I began sorting things out. And it wasn’t until my forties, that I began to scratch my way through the layers of my own skin.
The one thing that I had that was the gift of my life, is my curiosity.
From how things work to what people think, experience and dream about, I have a curiosity to learn. I love a good story.
Many people don’t think their lives are interesting or that they have done anything special. But when I talk to them, I do have the ability to untangle things and find what makes each person’s stories, interesting.
And I know that in my own life, it is by people sharing their stories or me reading other people’s stories, it is a big part of how I have learned how to live my life.
So many times I have said that the reason I write is to help people not feel alone in their fears, insecurities, joys, wonders, and human foibles.
It is all based in storytelling. And the stories only matter to me if they show humanity in all of its states. If you think you are perfect or had a “perfect” answer for everything, eh, I am probably not your gal.
But if you are trying to figure out who you are, what you believe, how to look at things differently, and share what you know and what you are experiencing, I always have a seat at my table for you.
And it is only though helping others feel better about themselves, that we truly, serve humanity. It doesn’t mean you blow smoke … on the contrary, we offer comfort to the disheartened, the weak, the human, and sometimes, the shitheads.
How do I say, in a few brief remarks, that who they are today is probably not going to be who they are tomorrow and the years between 16 and 64 go by quickly? How do I plant a seed that one day, maybe one person, might pull out of their pocket and it helps make them make the decision to live … and try again, and not die that day?
Is the message hope? Curiosity? Humanity? Grace?
Note, I didn’t mention success. I am sure someone else will address that.
As I said, I am pondering. Maybe this is a chance to make a difference. I don’t want to blow it.