To the First of Many Things, and to What's Come Before.
Hello everyone, and welcome to my brand new blog, which just so happens to be on my brand new website. The website is a work in progress so if you go fishing around you might find a broken link or two or you might also find some questionable aesthetic choices (someone will undoubtedly tell me it's too busy here or this thing over here isn't working) and then I suppose there's the final option that you might find nothing wrong. In any event, if you've made it to the blog I did at least something right. There's a million things going on of course but right now I'm reveling in this very first blog post ever. That is until I remember my last ill-fated blog titled "Unwritten" (from the Natasha Bettingfield song my 5th grade English teacher played before class each day) on the blog platform Blogger. There's also something on there about the #spaceshipearth with the idea that we're all on this ship together, an idea I've held onto for all this years, which is why it's still the name of my blog. Without further ado, here is the link to the blog, (https://spaceshipearth65.blogspot.com/) and my final post from it.
NOTE: My twin was using my blog for a bit so you're welcome to read some of his stuff, it's all great, but my last post was June 7th, 2015. I'm honestly getting a little tight in the chest here, because that last post in 2015 was the Baccalaureate speech to my high school graduating class, and in just three short months, I'll be graduating again. (And maybe even doing another baccalaureate speech?) Time sure as hell goes fast.
Graduation Week: Baccalaureate Speech
Hello guys. Or class of 2015 as they have started to call us, I kinda like it. It has a sort of timeless ring to it. You guys thankfully voted for me to be your senior class president this year, and I wanted to thank you and recognize the fact that I didn’t do this by myself. I just wanted to thank our vice-president Ridge Ellis, Secretary Angel Abbott, and treasurer for getting up and being at school at 7:30 in the morning on a number of occasions throughout the school year. Thank you guys. Then before I started I just wanted to thank Mrs. Duke on behalf of our class for everything you’ve done. I have worked closely with you on a lot of things over the years and as you said in a conversation we recently had, “I have always been there to talk to you if you needed anything.” That’s true and she’s proved it a lot of times, most recently, when she allowed us to decorate and display a set of caps that she bought our class. For that and everything you’ve done Mrs. Duke, thank you. And if any of you guys are wondering how to say thank you, I would strongly encourage you to turn in your permission slip so that you can help at the field day on Wednesday. It’s a pretty big thing for the Elementary school and we owe it to the community to give something back.
Okay now that all of that is done, you guys have to listen to the three hour speech I wrote last night. Just kidding, maybe I shouldn’t lie in church. My speech is NOT three hours, and I wrote it this morning. Yeah, some things never change. Which I guess is kind of a good Segway into my speech. It sounds really cliché but we’re all here to enter the next phase of our lives, but the only thing we know about this next chapter is what people tell us, that and all the lessons we’ve already learned. Still though, I guess I wonder if we’re really all that prepared. What I want to say today is going to sound depressing, and then it isn’t.
I want to start with a confession. I lost. This year alone I failed to place top three in T.S.A., quit the soccer team, missed dozens of assignments, and yeah, butchered a couple of class meetings. I was there when the scholastic bowl team lost in regionals, I have an internship with the Southside Sentinel that I’ve had to apologize for more times than I’d care to admit, I don’t come in as often as I should working at the Middlesex Museum, and sometimes I say some pretty hurtful things.
Losing is something I know about myself. And I think you know it too, because some of the people in this room have made me feel so small, between rumors and whispers and high school drama, but then again I guess I’ve made some of you guys feel pretty small too. I remember junior year I was sitting in choir and we were having a down day and my friend Emily Sheppard was playing her clarinet. She was trying over and over again to hit this really high note but she couldn’t get it. So of course, I decided to remind her that she couldn’t hit it. She cried. And do you know why she cried? She cried because inside she was saying the exact same thing to herself over and over again, and she cried because I didn’t know that she had gone home night after night and ran her fingers up and down that clarinet, trying her hardest to hit that note. I didn’t know, and I actually insisted for the rest of the day that she had to have been fake crying because I really wasn’t being all that mean. I want to demonstrate to you just how much I really didn’t get it.
I saw this on facebook and I thought it was a good way to show you what it’s like to not understand. This book is red. I am telling you this book is red but you don’t believe me do you? Well allow me to prove it to you. The back cover on this thing is red. I figured out that I don’t understand. I figured out that you can never tell someone they’re wrong until you see things from their point of view. And I don’t think many of you have ever had the chance to understand me, and I think that what I’m saying is only valuable if you get where I’m coming from, so I’m going to read a short story to you. This is the same story that dozens of college admissions officers read all over the country.
I grew up on the corner of Niagara Street in Denver Colorado. I assume that before November 8th 1996 the birds were chirping, and all was relatively quiet. That was the day I came into the world, and I'm not sure it's been that quiet ever since. I know it hasn't been for me. See, unfortunately my life was never what people would consider "normal." That may or may not be a blessing, but I know for sure it's been a pain my rear end. I was born into a family that I love unconditionally, but I feel justified using the term "dysfunctional" to describe them. Fun fact about John Williams, I am the youngest of five and one of two sets of twins in my family. I know, my poor mother. This however, is not the dysfunctional part. I was born to a mother and father wrestling demons. These twin savages were crack and marijuana who, though not instructed to do so, later invited their close cousin poverty to stay in our home. My parents taught me more morals than most people get to learn, and I had a happy childhood, but things were never perfect. These problems never occurred to me as "earth shaking" until the day the world got a little louder still. February 6th 2008, is the day my dad died. That, day is the day I realized that this world is never "relatively quiet."
It hurts to see your rickety world finally come unglued. Like your favorite dish falling in slow motion to the meet the floor. My father was the last straw. My mother and I were the only ones that could pull ourselves from staring at that broken dish long enough to try and pick up the pieces. Two in a family six that weren't overwhelmed by the crash. Growing up, my brothers and I had gotten into all sorts of mischief, but somewhere along the way, it had become something else. My eldest brother started his own gang and all three of my older brothers were using and dealing drugs. My brother and I rose above the fray, but still paid the price. My three older brothers had always played matador with the court system. Eventually though, the bull, had enough and with one stroke of the pen, created an order that barred my three older brothers from leaving the state.
Providence and my mom, spared my twin and me. We were left off the court order and before we knew it our mother had saved us from the sinking ship. She sent us on our lifeboat to live with our aunt and uncle in Middlesex, Virginia. Middlesex is nowhere close to the booming metropolis of Denver. In fact, Middlesex is nowhere close to anything, but even here, I can still hear the world spinning. Since moving, the world has only gotten louder. I don't live with the aunt and uncle that tried their hardest to make the world a little quieter for me. The twin brother that I escaped with and have clung to ever since went back home this year. Home to a mother that has finally thrown all but one demon from her home, and two brothers with brains enough to leave the bull alone. I chose to stay here with my guardians Holly and Wally. After all, nobody wants to ruin a good senior year. Yes my life has been one hell of a ride, and we all know it's not going to get any quieter, but that's okay, I am used to it now. Somewhere along the way I learned to sail into the wind and sweep up the pieces. I learned to dodge the bull or fight it, whatever the occasion calls for. I learned to just focus on the birds chirping, and when I lay down to sleep at night, all I hear is silence.
I told this story not only to maybe help some of you get to know me, but tell you the third most depressing thing I learned in high school. You are alone. So all together, I lost, I don’t always understand, and I am alone. Now for the part we’ve all been waiting for, the part where it gets less depressing. Because even though I lost all of those things, I’m have won way more. I’m an Eagle Scout, a church representative, I helped get my scholastic bowl team to regionals, I placed for nationals two out of the three years I led our high school’s TSA chapter, and I’m a lot more nice than I am mean. Well okay so maybe I’m sarcastically mean but that doesn’t count. And while there are a lot of times when most of the people in the room are CERTAIN I should have been born blond, there are a lot of times I really do get it. And I’m not alone. I’m standing in a room full of people that I really like. I don’t live with my family, I moved out of my aunt’s house, and last year I said goodbye to my twin brother as he went to go travel the world. It’s a hard knock life out there, but I don’t think it’s just that way for me. There are many of you out there in the audience that have lost someone, or have a sob story that would put mine to shame, but good thing I’m not comparing. But what I am doing is making a point. Because there are going to be days that sound like the beginning of this speech. Really depressing, and long. There are going to be day where we lose, don’t understand, and are alone, all at the same time. But just like this speech, it gets a little bit less depressing after that. Because once you’ve hit rock bottom the only place you can go is up. In that moment you have become your own underdog in one of those super dramatic movies we watched in Jarvis’s class. Thanks Jarvis by the way.
And do you know why we really love an underdog? It’s because they don’t stay the underdog. I mean let’s be realistic, Rocky would not be entertaining if he just flat out lost every fight. They are entertaining because they give us hope. Hope that in the darkest times of our lives we might lose, but we’ll never be losers. Because those moments don’t define who you are, it’s what you do next that matters. In the words of Rocky “Life isn’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit, and get back up. That’s how winning is done.” And when you get back up, talk trash the way Muhammad Ali talked trash. “I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I'm so mean I make medicine sick.”And guess what, he lost fights, now he lost five but that’s not the point. The point is he didn’t lose and quit. Everyone you want to be has been alone, lost, or confused. The thing is they didn’t stay there. I remember one time my friend Kendra and I were debating these guys for TSA and we creamed them. After that the judges told the other team straight up they lost. Then they looked us in the face and said there was only one thing we needed. We needed to lose. To lose just as bad as when we mopped the floor with those poor kids, because then we’d learn how to want. So when you lose, it’s only so you can win the next time. And when you don’t understand just take a step back and look the book from all angles, you’ll get eventually. And when you are alone, it’s only for a short time, and all your friend, family, and sometimes even strangers will be there pretty soon to pick you up. So to the most awesome bunch of failures I have ever known I leave you with two more quotes. The first is from Winston Churchill. ““Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” And the second one is from Cave Johnson. ““When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don't want your D*** lemons, what the h*** am I supposed to do with these? Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons!” Thank you guys for listening to me, and I hope your life is sort of depressing, and then it isn’t