How to Survive Your Graduation // God enters the picture + a video

There was a spike in my blog visitor stats on June 9th. I think everyone wanted to see if I was still alive or not…

So HELLO, people!!! Despite popular assumption, I am not dead! If you didn’t read my last post and have no idea why I’m suddenly treating death as a narrowly circumvented fate, I pity your innocence. You can catch up here.

Now, to continue the narrative…

My thoughts concerning graduation ceremonies are easily summed up:

Lord-Of-The-Rings-Aragorn

Get as far away from them as possible.

I am a creature of reclusiveness. I speak with the language of ink and keyboards and messy handwriting, not the alphabet of tongue and voice. Somewhere out there, I’m sure people exist who enjoy public speaking (those people are freaks and should not be trusted), but the very thought of getting up in front of my entire church put my stomach in a twist.

“Just be yourself,” Mom told me. “Write your speech the way you would write a blog post.”

That seemed easy enough. I grabbed my trusty pencil and started scribbling:

Hey hey hey, my minions, and welcome back to The Weekly Snark-Fest with Sarah Baran! Before we get going with all that graduation paraphernalia, I’d like to start off by reminding the world that I’m hilarious and—

Yeah, no.

“Be natural,” Anna said. “Try not to sound scripted. Just act like you normally do in public!”

Um… *voice pitches into awkward squeak* Hiiiii! I… um… *rustles paper* Yeah, so, uh… yeah. So, I guess I’m… um… graduating? Or something? *coughs* Yeah, and it’s… cool. Um. *fiddles with sleeve* Yeah. So… yeah.

Honey, I don’t think so.

“I know what you should do!” said my dear, sensible father. “Quote that one speech from Star Wars you like so much! You know, the one where—”

ALL SYSTEMS SHALL BOW BEFORE THE FIRST ORDER, AND REMEMBER THIS AS THE LAST DAY OF THE REPUBLIC!!!

This went on for several days.

In the meantime, I tried on my clown costume graduation attire. The result was… well…

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I was not impressed.

And despite popular advice, the hat needed no encouragement to stay on my head. I couldn’t get the thing to fall off even when I tried. It just really liked my cranium.

My mother (wise creature that she is) thought I should err on the side of caution. “You should probably wear pins anyway, just to be safe.”

“Pffffft,” said I, “I won’t need pins. It’s fine.”

Because that is clearly an attitude one should have about these kinds of things.

It’s fine.

My speech writing was… not going well. Every time I tried to work on it, a million worst-case-scenarios flashed through my head. What if my jokes aren’t funny? What if I’m cringey and awkward? What if I actually do faint? What it’s too long? What if it’s too short? What if I forget what I was going to say? What if people are super patronizing and sympathetic afterward? What if — horror of horrors — someone says in a really condescending tone, “You did great, honey!”

(An INTJ’s worst nightmare, right there.)

And this, folks, is how I found myself hyperventilating via email to my best friend, desperately hoping she would remind me that I am THE Sarah Baran and I can do anything – this included.

She said (and I quote):

You CAN’T DO IT. CANNOT.

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…wow.

But then – wonderful human that she is – she reminded me that while I can’t do it, God can. And if I was giving the speech for Him, not myself, would it really matter whether I sounded horrible or not?

She threw my own life’s motto right back at me, the little sneak.

God bless honest friends.

So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 4:11-12)

For the rest of the week, I disciplined myself in the art of surrender. When I stood in front of the bathroom mirror until 1 AM memorizing my speech, I’d begin and end it with a prayer. When anxiety poked me in the stomach and tried to get me riled up, I’d remind myself that it was God’s speech and it didn’t matter whether I failed or not. Every single moment I thought about it, I’d remind myself over and over again that I didn’t have to worry because the speech, the song, the hat, the social anxiety, and everything else belonged to God.

I ended up saying this to myself 102,474,893,405 times over the course of the week.

And you know what? An interesting thing happened:

My attitude shifted.

Oh, it wasn’t that I stopped being nervous. But the things that really terrified me — like looking stupid in public, or sounding lame when I tried to be funny — stopped bothering me. The night before the graduation, I went over every possible bad outcome in my head, but unlike previous nights (where I’d worry myself into a stomach ache), I genuinely didn’t care anymore. They seemed so… so inconsequential. And petty.

“Lord,” I said in the stillness of my own peace, “You’re going to get me through this, aren’t you?”

And somehow, even before it happened, I knew that He would.

(Of course, this didn’t prevent me from having a nightmare about my hat falling off as I walked down the isle saying, “Pfffft, it’s fine,” the whole time.)

(I decided to wear pins after that.)

The next day, we left for church early. My poor family was more nervous for me than I was nervous for me, since I’d sunk into a state of mental numbness. There was some slight drama upon our arrival when I couldn’t seem to find the other graduates no matter where I looked, but at long last they were discovered in the room meant for nursing mothers (I think they were hiding) and we headed downstairs to practice our song one last time.

I will tactfully refrain from mentioning how the practice went.

Suffice it to say… it went. I’ll leave you to interpret that as you will.

We clustered around the door of the sanctuary as we waited for the service to begin, preparing for the cue to glide one-by-one down the isle. (There was significant practice the week before on how to walk properly. The Bridal Walk, we called it. I had a brilliant idea and suggested we all walk like Jack Sparrow, but…

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They didn’t agree with me.

Then the music started. The congregation rose. And — OH GLORY, IT’S STARTING. Down we went, striding purposefully, trying not to trip over our shoes or each other’s gowns.

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I was still THOROUGHLY unimpressed.

And guys, guess who had to give their speech first? You guessed it: ME!!! Pastor called my name and up I went, mercifully too focused on the tricky handshake thing I’d have to perform than my own nerves. You know the drill; he presents me with a Bible, and as is traditional, I receive it in my left while shaking his hand overtop with my right.

I was prepared, man. I’d been practicing this thing for three weeks. I was going to nail it. There was no way this thing could get messed up–

And dagnabit, I messed it up.

An awkward few seconds transpired as I had to relearn which hands were which.

I could feel the room cringing.

But it was okay. I got up behind the pulpit and stared out at the congregation, finally meeting the sight that had terrified me for so long: People. Lots of them. All looking at me, waiting for my first words to boom into the microphone.

And God whispered a strange thing into my ear:

You control them.

Were we going to cringe about this little fiasco and try our hardest to forget it once it was over? Or was this room of people going to remember me as the quiet girl who didn’t care when she messed up and laughed at her own awkwardness?

I stood there. I met their eyes. I saw them waiting. I saw them watching.

AND THE LORD YANKED MY NERVOUSNESS CLEAN OUT FROM UNDER ME.

I don’t remember much about giving that speech, except when it was all said and done, I was breathless and excited and had enjoyed every second of it. Maybe I sounded as awkward as I felt, but I was okay with that. I’d given my best speech for GOD, and that was what mattered.

As I took my seat again with the other graduates, I glanced at the boy beside me. In the course of my attendance at this church, I’ve exchanged all of three words with him, them being, “CATCH THE THINGY–” when we were on the same team in dodge-ball that one time. So he didn’t say much — he didn’t even really look at me.

He just extended his fist, offering the Right Knuckles of Fellowship.

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And that, friends, is the moment I knew I must have done good.

And the rest… well, the rest is history, as they say. Our special music went superbly, simply because I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what I was doing. Somehow, not a single one of us managed to be on the same page. I think we were all expecting someone else to start singing first, and the result was total silence on our part as the pianist played right through the part where we were supposed to begin singing.

Her eyes widened a fraction of a centimeter.

And God bless the girl, she did a nifty little piano loop and played the beginning all over again.

This time, we were so determined to NOT miss our cue that we all started on different notes and just sorta… stayed that way. In the words of one of the guys after it was all said and done–

“Well that didn’t work.”

And I just…

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Yeah.

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Aw, aint’ we cute. If you zoom in far enough, you can see the literal personification of death in mom’s eyes. She hates having her picture taken.

And while there are many nice photos I took with Anna, none of them quite surpass this one:

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She’s terrifying.

Also, it has come to my attention that there were *cough cough* ALLEGATIONS *dry hacking* in the comments that I would cheat you out of a video. Those allegations were entirely correct. There is no way in tarnation the music video will ever see the light of day.

However, you can listen to my speech, if you feel so inclined. (And if you zoom in real close, you can even see me mess up the handshake.) Be blessed with Anna’s incredibly loud snickering in the background.

(Stupid WordPress and their algorithm that makes it impossible to upload a video unless it’s on YouTube first…)

Aaaaand that about does it, folks! With all the hustle and hubbub of this endeavor, I almost forgot the real significance of a graduation. Sure, the speech seems most prominent, and the song was terrifying, and the hat was just… no. But when it comes down to it, this is a milestone — a moment in my life that I’ll never have again.

I’m done with school. I’M DONE WITH SCHOOL. (Sort of.) How does someone even cope with that fact? I feel like I’ve been booted out of childhood and into adulthood, and it’s… Scary? Exhilarating? Stressful? Fun?

I dunno, man. But I guess, when it comes right down to it, I’m glad I had a graduation ceremony.

And I think I almost enjoyed it.

(There. I said it. You can stop snickering now.)

~Sarah

53 thoughts on “How to Survive Your Graduation // God enters the picture + a video

  1. “And that, friends, is the moment I knew I must have done good.” Woot woot! That’s awesome! Also, I loved your speech 😃 The stories in it were a great touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. YES! Doing your speech for Him sounds like an amazing comfort and I know if I had to ever do anything like making a speech, I would hold onto that idea through the whole thing.

    Also I listened to your speech and you were AMAZING. You were making people laugh all around and it was such an amazing speech! I also wanted to just tell you that you have a very pretty voice. 😁

    Also can I just say that at my sisters grad all the girls were wearing like super crazy inhuman high-heels (I don’t understand how they can walk in those things) but I just LOVED seeing the picture of you wearing sneakers; I’m tempted to do the same for my graduation 😂

    Congratulations so much on your graduation Sarah!!!!! 🎓 🎉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It truly, truly was. I highly recommend surrendering EVERYTHING IN LIFE, of every size and description, to God. It’s amazing how much it will change your outlook and attitude.

      (And aw, gee, thanks. ❤)

      Yeah, I’ve seen graduates wear those kind of shoes. And I swore to myself that I would never, under any circumstance, do that to my poor feet. #SneakerSquad

      Liked by 1 person

  3. THAT POST WAS… GREAT. Funny but also so true and filled with excellent reminders. Also you did a GREAT job on your speech *in my most non-condescending tone*. Seriously though, that was so well done, Sarah, and I really enjoyed the video!

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    1. Caroline says to tell you whoo-hoo. *beams* I had to watch it again, and just, besides everything else…you hardly looked at your notes AT ALL. OR said ‘um’. I mean…WHOO-HOO. (Caroline said, “…and public speaking isn’t her thing?”)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. TELL CAROLINE I SAY WHOO-HOO BACK! AND THAT PUBLIC SPEAKING DEFINITELY ISN’T MY THING. 😂

        The lack of ‘um’ and note-checking is thanks to you, my dear. I recited those notes SO MUCH in my head, the car, in front of the mirror, in the shower, while laying in bed, and during other such mindless activities that I don’t think the actual physical copies had a chance for survival…

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  4. I can relate on so many different levels. As a major introvert I absolutely hate getting in front of people, and last winter I had to give my testimony to the entire congregation! A genius idea my pastor came up with that everyone had to give their retell their testimony. Like you have already stated, it was a near death experience because my heart was beating out of my chest!! But also, I did for God and He got me through it. And happy I never have to go through that again!

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    1. aye yigh yigh, that sounds traumatizing… My older sister had to do that once, and to this day, I’m not sure how she survived the ordeal. We introverts understand one anothers pain. 😉

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  5. This is my new favorite inspirational post.

    Good gravy, you’ve got some amazing stuff here. Conquering personal obstacles, placing your trust completely in God, giving a GREAT speech… and GRADUATING!!!

    And you kept us all laughing along the way. Thank you for that. 😀

    Looking forward to seeing the phenomenal plans God has for your life!

    Like

    1. Oh, one other thing.

      I wasn’t going to say anything, but then you did it twice, so…

      You walk down an *aisle,* not an *isle.* An isle… is an island.

      Dumb English. XD

      Like

    2. Shucks, what even is the point of major life happenings if we can’t laugh a little? And be inspired by God’s life-saving interference? Such is the point of these things, I think.

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  6. This post WAS everything I expected: still absolutely sarcastic and witty while also inspiring. Inspiring everyone that God is ALWAYS with us and will ALWAYS be there for us to turn to. Thank you, Sarcastic Elf, for teaching and entertaining and numbing our brains. 😉

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  7. I am hereforth and onafter calling it the Right Knuckles of Fellowship and an orc can’t convince me otherwise. *nodnod* This post as p e r f e c t, and I can’t wait to see where God will take you– and your witty commentaries along the way, of course. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  8. CONGRATS!!!! This post . . . was awesome. 😉 I’m graduating next year, and this year, I had the privilege of helping in the graduation service for two friends.

    I’m so glad God helped you overcome the anxiety. And again, congrats.

    BTW . . . I’m one of those who likes public speaking. *Right Knuckles of Fellowship* 😁 😁 😁

    Like

  9. In my professionally unprofessional opinion…hearing you quote Star Wars in front of a whole Church during your graduation ceremony would have been positively wonderous. XD

    That said…if I ever have to stand up and give a speech in front of a whole room of PEOPLE…I know who to call.

    PS. *Offers you a Right Knuckles of Fellowship fist-thing* You actually did it though, you gave us an actual video of your speech! I just… I can’t believe this….

    ……….. *wipes a tear away and whispers* I’m so happy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right… Let us lament the things that should have happened but didn’t. *laments*

      *right knuckles of fellowship to you too* See? SEE?! Sometimes, in select circumstances, I’m capable of actually being serious when I tell people things!! (Shocking, I know.)

      Like

  10. WOW!!!! I LOVE the speech! It was comical and meaningful at the same time, just like all of your posts! XD Great job!

    “AND THE LORD YANKED MY NERVOUSNESS CLEAN OUT FROM UNDER ME”
    YESSS!!!! He is always there for you! And He has “yanked the nervousness” clean out from under me too when I needed it. 😉

    Wonderful post!

    Like

    1. Aw, thank you! And YES! ISN’T THE LORD AMAZING??? It’s crazy that He would concern Himself with little insignificant things like our petty nervousness, BUT HE DOES!! BECAUSE HE LOVES US!!

      *flips out*

      God is amazing.

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  11. Yessss congrats! I’m so glad it went well! (I mean apart from the singing, but seriously, when does that kind of stuff ever go well unless it’s a graduation for a choir school or something…?) Also, that “apparently I’m a bro now” tag made me laugh xD

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  12. OK…you delivered possibly the most difficult kind of speech(the moving from funny to serious, personal testimony, what am I going to do next? kind of speech), in an extremely cohesive, nearly flawless manner…and you expect us to believe you’ve never done this before?? In all sincerity, that was great! You did an awesome job, and you SOUNDED like you enjoyed every second, which made me (and I’m sure the congregation), enjoy it. Congratulations, Sarah. Congratulations on crossing a hurdle of trust, delivering a smashbang speech, and the end of high school.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Your speech was amazing. AMAZING. I had to chuckle a bit when you accidentally shook hands with your left hand, but I think everybody has done that at some point in our lives. And hey, you were nervous! But that didn’t come out at all in your speech. You sounded cool, calm, and collected. Great job!!! If I had been in the audience I definitely would have applauded. *applauds* 😀

    Thank you so much for sharing the video! I have a question… when you upload a video to YouTube, is there the option to make it visible only to certain people? Like… with a special link, or something? I’ve thought about doing a vlog before but I’d rather not have it for public consumption on YouTube. 😮

    Like

    1. I was so confused… I’d gotten my notes all ready in the hand I THOUGHT I wouldn’t be using to shake, and then suddenly there is his hand and oh, wait, I have the wrong one, and where are my notes, and… *shakes head* Yep. Truly my finest moment. XD

      (But aw, thank you so much! You’re such a sweetheart.)

      I really wish there were such an option on Youtube, but as far as I know, there isn’t. Frustrating, isn’t it? Just about everything else has the option to be made public or private, but not that. 😑

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Your speech was awesome! Nuff said. And… *cough* your handshake was pretty funny, but I have no right to laugh. I’ve done it about a thousand times… XD
    Getting in front of a whole ton of people IS terrifying. *shudders* The few times I had to speak in front of an audience was to give my testimony to my whole church, aaand that’s pretty much it so far. But I pretty much forgot how to stand.
    BUT AGH YOU ARE DONE. DONE. DOOONNNNNNEE. Congrats, cuz I haven’t even said that yet!! ❤

    Like

    1. Woot, thank you! Yeah, that darned handshake… I felt a little better though when none of the other graduates got it right either… 😈

      “But I pretty much forgot how to stand.”

      HAHAHA, YEAH. That. Oh glory. You people who’ve actually survived the whole “testimony in front of church” thing are my heroes.

      Liked by 1 person

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