Our small staff has to divvy up the nearly dozen schools in our coverage area so that photos from each ceremony will make it into our Saturday edition. Typically, we reporters cover our respective alma maters and assign the rest to the unsuspecting sports guys.
I always enjoy getting a sneak peek at the val and sal speeches.
After seven graduation seasons, I can churn out one in my sleep — thank parents, teachers and friends, quote at least three famous dead people, end with a cliche about the future.
In the interest of full disclosure, I delivered a graduation speech back in 2004 that was sappier than anything I’ve read from today’s best and brightest.
If the hard copy of it were to ever surface, I would immediately burn it for fear that my bosses would realize what a mistake they make paying me to write.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the message I’d like to send to the 17-year-old me rattling on in front of that stifling auditorium.
The gist of it would be “Girl, you don’t have a clue.”
I acted like I had life all figured out at graduation, but I didn’t. In fact, nearly everything I thought I knew was wrong.
I had fallen hook, line and sinker for the lie that the high school years would be the best time I would ever have. By my estimation, they sucked, so that didn’t bode very well for my future.
I also believed that while most of my classmates might eventually end up with happy marriages and babies, the road awaiting me was one that I would walk alone.
Also, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that it would carry me far, far away from Cordova.
I made it as far as the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
It was in college that I first began to realize that some people make good teenagers and others are much happier as adults. I am the latter.
It took me a little longer to figure out that the source of all that unhappiness I carried with me up to the podium on graduation night was me.
For me, high school was about trying to be the person I thought I wanted to be (a “typical” teen) or that everybody else expected me to be (Little Miss 4.0).
At graduation, I was just left with the actual me. Although it took a while, I’m pretty okay with her now.
I can’t remember how many times as a senior I remember hearing, “You’ll miss these days.” Nearly a decade later, I have yet to have any desire to go back.
The best part of my life began the day that high school ended.
In the years that followed, I grew comfortable in my own skin.
I developed meaningful relationships with other people who were just as crazy as me.
I fell in love with the same man twice, married him and became the mother of a beautiful baby boy.
I found a job that always gives me interesting things to do, new things to learn and cool people to meet.
I made mistakes. Boy, did I make some mistakes. But each one beat a little more pretentious out of me and reminded me that it’s better to earn a few scars in life than to sit on the sidelines whining about not being in the game.
Of course, no high school graduate wants to hear any of this.
If I had to do my valedictorian speech all over again, I would keep it short and sweet with some words from Alanis Morrissette.
(Keep her lyrics handy, potential vals and sals of 2014.)
“You live, you learn;
“You love, you learn;
“You cry, you learn;
“You lose, you learn;
“You bleed, you learn;
“You scream, you learn;
“You grieve, you learn;
“You choke, you learn;
“You laugh, you learn;
“You choose, you learn;
“You pray, you learn;
“You ask, you learn;
“You live, you learn.”