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:
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—
“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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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:
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.
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.)