Ten years ago, I was standing before a crowd of 17 and 18 year olds, giving a painfully brief valedictorian address. Because I was so shy, I had a hard time coming up with something interesting to say and I probably just read it hurriedly, saying nothing of note or interest. I barely remember what I said, only that it was short. I was proud to be up there, proud to have the honor, but I had no idea about how to give a good speech. I still think about it with a twinge of regret, and will likely avoid watching the video of it, if asked.
That failed speech, however, taught me a lot. I still get nervous speaking in front of people, but I'm getting better about delivery and actually saying something interesting. Thanks to a great freshman year speech class, the constant requirement to speak in front of large groups, and my desire to be a professor, I've worked on it. I've also become a lot less shy, which helps enormously.
Ten years ago, I was a high school graduate, naive and scared of the big, wide world. Now I'm beginning a Ph.D. program in the fall and setting my sights on scholarship, research, and teaching. It's exciting, this life of mine, if only to me.
I feel like such a different person now, but the reality is that I'm still that teenaged girl, just grown up and with more life experiences. I'm different because of my experiences: college, travel, friendships and relationships. Each taught me something new and helped me learn more about myself and how to navigate this not-so-scary world. I used to be terrified of the unknown, but now I embrace it and acknowledge that it's still a little scary. But part of the fun is the twinge of anxiety when facing something new. I've learned to see the world differently, and that's why I feel so different now, ten years after leaving high school.
When we were at Lance's parents' church last weekend, the service was dedicated to the high school (and college) graduates. One guy said something about how high school was the best time of his life. I have to disagree: high school was okay. I didn't hate it, and I have some good memories. It wasn't bad, but I don't think I'd ever go back (even to redo my valedictorian speech). I feel like my life is getting better every single day: I'm in love with a wonderful man, I have purpose and goals to work toward, I have great friends and family, and am surrounded by people I love and who love me. I have cats who like to snuggle with me in the morning. I am satisfied with my life and know that more good experiences await me. Right now is the best time of my life, and if you talk to me in ten years, I hope that I say that that moment is the best.