Why I should be your next elementary school commencement speaker.

Now that I’m an ancient 41, I firmly believe that I know nothing. Also? I’m super excited to give advice.

You might see a problem here, but I think an advice giver who thinks they know everything is way more dangerous. At least I’m all, “Ehh, take it with a grain of salt, buuut …”

This attitude might be the reason why yet another graduation season has passed without me being asked to give a commencement speech. Couple that with the fact that I’m on year 23 of not being asked to prom, and it’s been a rough few months.

But commencement speeches. I tend to be drawn to them in May and June each year, wondering if some celebrity is going to impart a bit of wisdom that would change my outlook. Mostly, I’m just entertained. And I like to pretend that every spring is a fresh start, so it’s like I’m a new graduate every year.

Again, maybe this “new grad” mindset is hindering my chances of being asked to be a graduation speaker. After all, I was one of four speakers at my high school graduation when I was, in fact, a new grad. Even while I was giving the speech, I knew I was bombing. To be fair, there’s not much audience engagement in a jam-packed gymnasium that isn’t air conditioned. But still.

I think I’m a better candidate for speaking at an elementary school graduation. Let me tell you why.

When I was in high school, a handful of us were asked to speak to sixth-grade classes. It was towards the end of the school year, and we were tasked with answering questions about moving to the junior high. We were also supposed to empower the sixth graders and have an anti-drug message. The program was through DARE, and there was a cop supervising the whole shebang.

I was with one or two other high school kids speaking to the classroom taught by my grandparents’ next-door neighbor. He was a low-key guy, and you could tell his classroom was similarly low-key.

My compatriots and I spoke about making new friends at the junior high and what it was like moving from class to class. Then, somebody raised their hand and asked if we had been nervous going into seventh grade.

This is where I jumped in and regaled all the kids, their teacher, and the DARE cop with my tale of woe about my seventh-grade locker.

Do you feel the tension?

See, I had never operated a combination lock before. And for the duration of the summer of 1987, I was obsessed and panicked about opening my locker at the junior high. I had a reoccurring dream that I’d get to the junior high on the first day of school, and I’d find my locker just fine. But I wouldn’t be able to open it. And then, the bell would ring, and I’d be late for class. Then, I’d realize I was nekkid and I had to walk home.

Now, I like to believe that the kids who heard this were relieved. “Ah, it’s not just me!” I was bringing honesty and authenticity to their worlds! But I don’t remember their faces. Instead, I remember DARE officer putting his head down on a desk. Like he couldn’t believe this was his life and he had to deal with these shenanigans and, if anything, I was a spreading the message of using drugs because DEAR GOD, KIDS, JUST DON’T BE LIKE HER.

My parents were horrified by this story. My grandma kind of shook her head, but I like to think she thought it was funny.

I was honest. And if I’m still being honest? I still have that dream about twice a year.

So, I’m just gonna put this out there: If your school needs an elementary school graduation speaker, call me. Obviously, I will tell it like it is.

Also, I am willing to be paid in cake.

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  • Reply Karen (formerly kcinnova) June 17, 2016 at 9:00 am

    They may have shook heads and winced, but I bet that out of that class of kids, one of them had a dream JUST LIKE YOURS that summer and was relieved to know it was NORMAL.
    Someday, he or she will be a teacher and look you up to come and speak for his/her class. In fact, I bet that teacher is looking desperately for you RIGHT NOW.

  • Reply Kari Wagner June 19, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    We should be allowed to go back and given the chance to: go to prom, give commencement speeches etc. at this age.
    When we have more life experience.
    And we don't give a shit.

    By the way, I poked a hole in my hand with a pencil while opening MY seventh grade locker.
    True story.

  • Reply Green Girl in Wisconsin June 22, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    I feel like you'd be a fabulous graduation speaker for many reasons. I also know I'd have felt better hearing you say that when I was young because I could NEVER remember my locker combination. I actually had to wait for my locker partner to open it so I could get stuff out of it. VERY stressful.

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