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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Graduation (08/30/04)

TITLE: Keep a Loose Grip on the Future
By Joanne Malley


The heat was almost too much to bear, but the excitement of high school graduation overshadowed the smell of sweat around me!

Glistening beads covered my forehead and back. I was sandwiched between other students who were eagerly waiting to get on with their lives. So, this is what claustrophobia feels like, I thought. I didn’t think it was possible in the open air!

“Jean Piccolo..…Timothy Purcell…..Michael Radisson”…

I realized my name would soon be called. Now I had beads of sweat from nervousness!

“Pssst…anyone have a tissue?” I murmured, as I turned around.

Diane Simmons tapped me on the shoulder and she produced five fresh tissues from her small handbag.

Am I sweating that much, I thought to myself. Five seemed a bit excessive! However, I was quite pleased that they smelled like perfume. It sure beat the scent of soggy polyester graduation gowns!

I tried to dab myself discreetly, but there is no discretion when nonchalantly swabbing your armpits through the sleeves of a graduation gown! After my embarrassing display, I directed my focus on my imminent entrance into “the land of the free!”

I leaned forward and looked across the aisle. I saw that everyone in my family was there and they were all seated together in a molten state! I smiled when I realized they were about to watch me take my walk across the stage toward my newfound freedom.

It was my turn to approach the steps onto the stage. With my diploma in hand, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted! I made my way back to my seat and I sat patiently for the commencement exercises to end.

“…And now, as we move forth, we can hold our treasured memories close to our hearts. Let us also hold our own futures, with a tight grip, as the road takes us to where we want to go. Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 1981!”

Caps were flying high in the dense, humid air, as Cindy Clancy, our Class President, completed the graduation speech.

There were screams of delight and plenty of loud clapping. Oddly, I didn’t sense any nervous tension coming from anyone. However, I knew it was hiding behind the nervous smiles of those in attendance. How many of us were really confident in where we were going?

I then moved across the aisle to join my loved ones for some treasured photos that would last a lifetime.

“Congratulations, sweetheart,” said both of my parents, in between sharing a few kisses and hugs.

My brother, the relentless joker, hugged me while he exclaimed, “See--you aren’t THAT dumb!”

I guess that was his way of saying he was proud of me too! Brothers!!

Finally, I went traveling on my path to freedom, just like you…

I bet I met up with you a time or two. If my memory serves me right, I think I saw you on the path of “What If.” Didn’t I also see you on the never-ending road of “Could Have—Would Have—Should Have?”

When I look back to my graduation day, I can clearly see that my parents and my brother weren’t the only ones waiting in the heat with pride. God was also there.

I wish I saw Him on that stage years ago, and I wish I felt Him touch my shoulder as my hand reached for the piece of paper that set me on my own path. He tried to get my attention, but my eyes only saw the freedom that lay ahead.

If I noticed Him, the uncertainties and the anxieties of the future could’ve been shared with Him. Unfortunately, long ago, I traveled my path alone.

I was misled by the words of Cindy Clancy, our Class President. She may have been right about holding our treasured memories close to our hearts, but I learned that I shouldn’t hold my own future with a tight grip, nor should “my” road take me where “I” want to go.

Now that the Lord has a special place in my life and in my heart, His presence is vivid and clear to me. I’m thankful that I don’t have to rely on my own navigational skills, or I would still be lost.

Thankfully, I now recognize that touch on my shoulder. It’s His gentle reminder that He’s still directing my path.

Member Comments
Member Date

Loved the story. I probably graduated that same, hot steamy day. You told the story with great detail. In addition,i particularly liked the ending where you stated (I’m thankful that I don’t have to rely on my own navigational skills, or I would still be lost.) me too!(:

Lynda Lee Schab 09/07/04
Your writing just keep getting better and better!
I loved the detailed story-telling, loved the testimony.
Wonderful job!
Love, Lynda
Rene Uys09/07/04
I loved your story. You paint with words.
darlene hight09/07/04
Joanne this is a great piece. I loved the road to could have,should have etc.Very descriptive.
Kenny Paul Clarkson09/07/04

A brother who doesn't think you're dumb. What a blessing!!!

Great story-line. Readable. Good stuff.
John Hunt09/07/04
A great read. Brings back memories of my grad day.
Good Job!
L.M. Lee09/08/04
being sensitive to that gentle tap on the shoulder is what we all need to learn.
Lucian Thompson09/10/04
Amen! That touch on your shoulder is directing you to the final graduation that you will receive with honors. Congradulations!!!
Margaret Reed09/10/04
Held my interest throughout.