I flip on the floodlights and step out onto the stage.
Fifteen years ago, I stood in this exact spot. (Ok, a few feet back, really. We didn’t have the stage extension then.)
In my mind’s eye, I see my teenage self: similar black dress, similar string of pearls, similar black shoes – albeit, sensible pumps instead of the slightly-less-than-sensible stilettos that are now killing my feet.
Like the 360 cinematic sweep that is playing out in my head, I see my life come full circle.
I was nervous then, and I’m nervous now.
Only now, I’ll be the face on the front row that my students will look for. I will be the reassuring nod when the most confident of them aren’t certain of their lines. I will quietly give the next few words and see them nod in return as their memory clicks in.
In fifteen years, the speeches haven’t changed all that much:
“Once up a midnight dreary…”
“On either side the river, lie…”
“It all began on a crisp fall day…”
Ironically, though I didn’t plan it this way, those are all pieces that I have given from this spot, a few feet back. I smile as I remember how young I felt, and how confident I tried to appear.
That much hasn’t changed. At nearly thirty, I still feel too young, too untested, too unsure to be in charge.
…But it’s too late for that now.
In a few minutes, I’ll open the doors, and the auditorium will begin to fill. I’ll welcome parents and direct students to their places.
I will confiscate cell phones and chewing gum, and will replace missing scripts. I will calm nerves with an encouraging word, and will threaten and cajole the student who wants to back out.
I will be confident. I will be in charge…
Looking out at the empty, darkened seats, I take a deep breath and rehearse my Welcome speech in my head. I breathe out and in, calming the memories and the butterflies.
Then my younger self and I share a smile as I step off the platform, gather the programs from the front row, and walk to the back to open the doors.