As Time Goes By

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.

Getty Images

Getty Images

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.

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