( Intermediate Level )
“Isn’t it ironic how society or your family tells you how to act, what you should look like, or even what you should become but in the same breath they tell you to be a leader and not a follower?”
“Why can’t I just be me?” She had asked this question dozens of times to her teachers, her parents, or her boss at the burger shop where she worked part-time on weekends. Never once had she received a solid answer to this question?
“It is just how it is. People associate your looks with who you are. We know who you truly are but you are judged at first glance.” this was her mother’s go-to answer.
Those who really knew Shelby knew how smart, kind and honest she was. Others judge her without getting to know her. She felt this was unfortunate for them but it still bothers her. They were the ones who were missing out.
When she was out in any public setting, she tried not to draw attention to herself. It annoyed her but she would tell her friends, “It is what it is and I cannot change everyone’s mind.”
Shelby had a special relationship with her history teacher, Mr. Barkley. He would tell her there were many famous women in history who people thought were odd or silly but they turned out to be movers and shakers in the world. He always had a way of making her feel better.
See, what people didn’t know about Shelby she was in the top five percent of her class and she was in the running for class valedictorian. This honor is given to a student with the highest academic achievements.
Sometime this week or early next week it will be announced. The students had completed their last exams and those marks would be tallied to see who had won.
Shelby was home on Friday night surfing the internet on her laptop. She had finished all her homework earlier and really didn’t want to watch a movie with her parents. She made her rounds to all her favorite social media platforms, making comments or liking her friends’ posts.
Her last stop would be her emails before she showered and headed to bed. She noticed she had an email from her school and was curious.
She read, “Congratulations Shelby! We are proud to announce you are this year’s Valedictorian. You are expected to give the farewell address to the graduating seniors this year, so please prepare for this and allow us to review it before graduation.” It was signed by the principal of her school.
She took her laptop out to the living room where she knew her parents were. She could hear the television still on. “Mom, Dad, I have something for you to read.” She handed her laptop over to her mother.
Both her parents read the email at the same time and her mother squealed with delight. ” I am so very proud of you Honey. I know you’ve been working very hard all year long.”
Shelby headed back to her bedroom. She had showered and lay on her bed thinking of what she would say in her speech. She could be like all others in the past. Wishing everyone the best for their future but she wanted to speak from her heart.
She was up early the next morning and ate a quick bowl of oatmeal. She went to her desk to begin writing her speech. Shelby was old school when it came to writing. She used paper and a pencil.
She started many drafts but found she didn’t like how they sounded. She crumpled up pieces of paper all around the floor by the waste paper basket next to her desk.
Her mom knocked on her door lightly to see if she wanted breakfast with her and her dad. “No mom, I had some oatmeal already.” Her mom popped her head in the door about this time.
“Oh my, what happened here? It looks like a hurricane hit.” Shelby laughed and looked at her mom. “I am not having any luck with my speech. I don’t want to sound like a robot nor do I want to sound fake.”
“Don’t force it, Dear. The words will come to you,” She kissed Shelby’s forehead, picked up the crumpled papers that hadn’t made their way to the trash, then headed out to cook breakfast for her and her husband.
Her mom was right. Shelby took a break and went for a walk. This helped her clear her mind. She sat outside just watching people. Some who walked by her looked and then walked faster or they commented to those who walked with them.
That evening over dinner her mom asked her how the speech was going. “ I took a break. I will go back to writing again after dinner. I will have it done by Monday I am sure of this.”
After dinner, Shelby excused herself from the table. “If you need me, Mom, I will be in my room. I can help you with the dishes.” “No, It will be fine. You need to concentrate on that speech of yours.”
Shelby settled down at her desk and began to write and the words flowed through her pencil to the paper. her. She read it and reread it then shared it with her parents.
They felt she had spoken well and from the heart. She returned to her room and tucked it away until Monday when she would turn it in for approval.
On Monday afternoon the principal had called for her to come to the office. He handed back her speech to her and told her,” It was written eloquently and with great care. Great job!”
The week went by fast enough. Friday evening at seven the graduation commencement would be held on the sports field. Chairs would be set on the field and a small stage would go into place. Many of the seniors volunteered to help set up for the event.
Shelby and her parents had an early dinner on Friday night. After the ceremony, if they were hungry they could go out for dessert and coffee. For now, Shelby needed to get ready and arrive forty-five minutes earlier.
The evening was filled with excitement mixed with sadness. Some of her classmates will be going out of state to attend the college they chose. It was the end of one chapter and the start of a new one for all of them.
“Tonight we are here to celebrate our seniors. It is a time when they find out who they are and take the tools we have taught them and put them into good use. I wish all of them the very best. Without further ado let me introduce this year’s valedictorian, Shelby Mecham.”
You could hear her classmates say,” You go girl!” as the audience clapped. The bleachers were full of family members and friends of the graduating class. Shelby’s parents were on the top row hoping to have a better view.
Shelby stood there with confidence. She put her speech on the podium in front of her and adjusted the microphone.”Thank you all for coming tonight to celebrate with us.”
“As valedictorian, I can wish everyone the best in life and tell them they would be missed. They know they will. As much as we say we will keep in touch with one another our lives will drift apart.”
“During this time of our lives, we discovered who we are and what direction we will choose. Some of us will be wise in our choices and some of us will not.” She glanced around at her classmates and smiled, stopping at those who hadn’t taken high school as seriously.
“It is ok when we fail. We learn from our mistakes. Eventually, we will get it right. If not, we can always live with our parents for the rest of our lives.” She laughed along with the audience.
“If I can give all of you, my classmates and those in the audience, one bit of advice I would tell you not to judge anyone by how they look without getting to know them first.”
“My parents are the best in the world. They let me be me. I have pink hair this week and maybe next week I may have blue. I chose to have artwork on my arm. This is how I express myself. “
“Do these things make me a bad person? Do these things say I will be a bum in society? No, they don’t. They show I have the confidence to be who I want to be.”
“So, the next time you see someone who is like me don’t judge them, instead get to know them. I am standing up here on the stage tonight as this year’s valedictorian. If I was someone that was, in your eyes, a bad person, I would not even graduate. I am me.”
“Let’s get to the ceremony at hand. I know my fellow classmates want to get this chapter closed. Thank you again for coming.” As she ended her address everyone stood and clapped. Her classmates cheered. and whistled.
She glanced to the top row of the bleachers to see her parents smiling and clapping. Her dad blew her a kiss.
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Thoughts From Angel:
I am far from perfect. I am guilty of judging someone on their appearance or my first impression of them. I can say that most of us have at one time or another in our lifetime. I can tell you honestly I have been wrong on many occasions.
If you appreciate what I do “Buy Me A Coffee”
in the same breath – idiom: at the same time
associate – verb: connect (someone or something) with something else in one’s mind
go-to – adjective: a person or thing that may be relied on
unfortunate – adjective: bad fortune; unlucky
movers and shakers – idiom: a powerful person who initiates events and influences people
valedictorian – noun: typically having the highest academic achievements in the class
achievements – noun: a thing done successfully, typically by effort, courage, or skill
surfing the internet – (uncountable noun): to browse or move from site to site randomly
farewell address – noun: a speech delivered by someone upon leaving
squealed with delight – verb phrase: make a high-pitched sound when you become excited
old school – noun: something that is old-fashioned or traditional
drafts – noun: a preliminary version of a piece of writing
crumpled up – idiom: to crush a piece of paper until all of it is destroyed
fake – adjective: not real
flowed – verb: a steady stream
eloquently -adverb: persuasive manner
commencement – noun: a ceremony in which degrees or diplomas are given to graduating students
bleachers – noun: noun: a cheap bench seat at a sports arena
podium – noun: a small platform that a person uses to set their papers when giving a speech
Question ( s ):
Have you judged someone on their appearance or your first impression of them?
Were you wrong?