The tense air was filled with mindless chatter. Everyone was running on plain adrenaline as they stood holding onto the few hours they had left in the classroom. Computers to sign up for the alumni program were scattered on clean, empty desks around the room. The whiteboard filled with messages and drawing in all colors from teachers, other students, and the current graduating class. I stood there anxious and shaking, with a fear produced smile on my face. Nervous fingers taped desks, and words powered by anticipation were constantly filling the silence. I felt surreal, like it was a dream. It was crazy to think “I am graduating today. I will not go to school here anymore.” I still hadn’t fully realized it, even after countless rehearsals, speech writing sessions, and choir practices. This was the day, May 30, 2014.
“Okay, line up in your order, we’re going to start walking now.” Mrs. Gray said, giving us a smile that had become the most comforting smile to me over the years. I walked over to line up in my place, and could feel my heart thumping away. We walked a long way, through the hallways we had always been in, the places we knew better than our own houses. We finally came to the outdoor staircase we would go down to get into the back of the gym. “Oh gosh I’m so scared.” I said, shaking. “I know, me too.” My friend Gwen said, smiling at me and grabbing my hand. I squeezed her hand anxiously. We were all completely still and silent as we waited for our cue. Then we walked out to the back of the gym, facing the stage.
All the seats were full of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and more. They turned and pulled out cameras and phones to record us. The graduation music started playing, and the tense energy higher than ever. Two by two we were going to walk down the middle aisle to the stage. Then we would split sides and stand in front of our seats. “The first pair went. Now the second…, third…, fourth…, gosh I’m nervous. I bet I’ll fall. I’ll be the one who falls. Oh no.” I thought. Then before I realized it I was walking down the aisle with Gwen. I didn’t even think about what I saw doing, everything was blurry. I concentrated on not tripping on the stairs, and slowly made it to my seat. Thank goodness. The worst wasn’t over though.
The speeches started, and they went by alphabetical last name. I waited through speeches I had heard a million times already in practices, and tried not to look bored. Finally I heard Mr. Falkner, the principal say “Amelia Clemers.” I tensed and got up, getting encouragement from all the people I walked past on the stage. My legs were wobbly as I carefully made my way down the stairs and to the podium. There was a still silence with the only gentle scuffling sound of the papers underneath the microphone. My speech was already printed out and sitting there, just like I’d practiced. “It’s okay.” I thought. “No one’s really paying attention.” I started the speech, just like I had before, and for a while it was like I could see myself reading it. Like I was an observer to myself. It was one of the scariest and best experiences of my life. I wrote, edited, and recited a speech to my entire school, with all the parents and faculty there. This was pretty amazing for me, someone who didn’t even like to speak up in class, to be able to do it. I don’t want to sound conceited, but I was proud.
I walked back to my seat, after I finished and heard the applause. On my way back every person gave me a “Good job!” or some other compliment. I felt amazing, I had just faced one of my biggest fears. Adrenaline pumped through my veins, and I grinned like a crazy person, because I had just given the speech I had feared to give for years. Then they started giving out the certificates. One by one I watched my classmates go off the stage, and stand in front to receive their certificates. I saw their parents rush up to take a picture. Flash. Then finally I heard “Amelia Clemers!” I walked down off the stage hearing the applause. I smiled broadly, and got the certificate from my dad. He was giving it to me, because he was a member of the board for the school. He smiled proudly, wearing his best suit and the tie I’d picked out for him. I got the certificate and stopped for a picture.
Looking back at those pictures I see that my hair had fallen straight again from my mother’s attempts to curl it, and my dress looked like I was in the Victorian era, but it is still one of my favorite pictures. After everyone had finally gotten their certificates, we stood up, and the music played once again. We walked in pairs off of the stage, and down the aisle. As it came to my turn, I walked as gracefully as I could muster off the stage. I met up with Gwen at the front of the stage, and she grabbed my hand. We walked, and practically skipped down the aisle, grinning like crazy.
This taught me that I can do things that scare me. I had been scared of giving a graduation speech every year I went to graduation. I had always feared it, and hoped I wouldn’t have to do it. But I’m very glad I was made to do the speech. It was scarier than anything else I had ever done, because yes I had done presentations in front of the whole school, but nothing this long. I felt amazing getting my certificate, and celebrating with my class. After graduation there’s always a party for the families and the kids in the gym. There’s a cake with all of our names on it, and lots of pictures being taken. I felt so relived, almost giddy. I remember the excited conversations, the happiness, the past being reminisced, the last pictures, last hugs, last words before you move on. I remember walking out that door, feeling relived, and sad for what I was leaving behind. My home, pretty much. The teachers who all knew me, the younger kids who I played with, the classrooms and places I played in for so much of my life. Also, my class. People who were going different ways, people who would become different people, just like I did. I learned to not fear the future as much, and to embrace my challenges.