This was a speech I wrote for the Honors Banquet at my school. It's where the new members of the National Honor Society are inducted and those students who consistently achieve honor roll status are honored for their hard work. I wrote this because I was on the NHS. But I didn't feel like working, so I lost out on something that meant so much to me. Just picture a makeshift stage (my school makes all their stages to fit the productions we put on) with the 12 other members of the NHS and the principal and Mr. Pogacar (the coordinator of the event) behind me, and those in attendance on the auditorium risers seated on orange plush chairs (mind you, our school colors are purple and white). This was written a few short weeks before I graduated high school. Please tell me what you think.
To All the Scholars
My mother is a middle-aged woman. She has wrinkles, but she isn't old. She has gray hair, but she still isn't old. My mother raised me to the best of her abilities and she hasn't grown old yet.
I think my mother is afraid to be old, to be like her own mother. I noticed she started exercising to keep her muscles strong. She takes her vitamins so she is as healthy as she can be. But what I notice most is my mother's affinity for coloring her hair.
When I see my mom, her hair is always an auburn color. I can understand that any woman might color her hair to feel younger and more attractive. I think there's more to it in my mom's case.
There was one time when mom actually let her hair go natural. People mistook her for a blonde. I didn't understand why this irritated her so much. I mean-she looked so much like my grandmother with white hair. Alas, too many people called her blonde and she went back to coloring.
I was puzzled as to why she would be unhappy with something so natural. Perhaps she felt old. I think, though, that it was a secret fear of being exactly like her own mother-something that, if you knew my grammie, wouldn't seem so bad. Yet, I understand her fear all too well.
My mother was a straight-A student-third in her class with National Honor Society status. She always strove for academic excellence, something she and my dad have tried to nail into my brain since before I even started school. Until recently, I think they had been nailing at the wrong board.
When I started 7th grade, my report cards lacked a certain "oomph" that would make them outstanding. It was my first glimpse of what high school would be like and my grades were merely average. This, of course, was my rebellious preteen stage when I didn't want to admit that mom and dad were right. I needed to improve and be better than average if I wanted to join the NHS in high school. I needed to be more like my mother if I was going to succeed in my high school career.
I understand my mom in that we are alike while trying to be different. She colored her hair so as not to look like her mother. I adopted academic indifference so as not to be like my mother.
High school is…to put it simply…much different than middle school. If you want to accomplish something big, you actually have to work for it. When I moved into a different school setting for my freshman year, I met some very interesting people. Some could have easily been valedictorian, or at least I would've pegged them for it. One person intrigued me the most: my friend Becky. She always carried at least 4 different-color pens to take notes or do homework. The one thing that stood out most about Becky was that I never even saw her doing work! Yet, she always seemed to come out on top when we got our report cards. And she still had those pens.
I recently learned that my friend Becky was indeed named Valedictorian of Millbury High School's Class of 2003. I was proud to say that, yes, Becky was one of my "best good" friends. At the same time, something primitive flared up in me. This little monster called Jealousy bit the butt of Competition, which, in turn, clawed at Regret.
While I was at Millbury, I had Becky to motivate me. I wanted to be able to say that that psychological competition put that little "oomph" into my report cards. It was a rare occasion when my parents saw a C creep into my As and Bs. I was proud of my efforts, so seemingly nonchalant all because of Becky. I secretly credit her for helping me get onto the NHS.
The National Honor Society has always been this big thing looming in front of me. Something just within my grasp, but at the same time, something I had to lunge for. In 10th grade I was offered a chance to actually jump for it. And I did.
My application essays were a little unorthodox, but I suppose they did the trick. And when I went before the faculty review committee, I was still a face many of the members were not familiar with. That little fact did not deter my hopes to get in. My mom had been on it, my sister had been on it, my cousins were on it. It was a family legacy (pressure) that I honestly felt I had to and actually wanted to uphold. My hard work and competitiveness won me an acceptance letter to participate in the NHS. Happy would be an understatement.
My junior year found me back at Oxbow with the same new faces-people I remembered but at the same time didn't recognize. I remembered a lot of my former present classmates from middle school, but they weren't the same former present classmates. We had all done some growing up, for better or for worse, but some growing up nonetheless. To this day, I still haven't decided my feelings on the situation regarding my return here. I suppose my report cards reflected that indecision. I like to think it's because I lost Becky. I no longer had a "best good" friend to compete with who, as much as she denied it, worked very hard to get her grades. Cs were now commonplace on my report cards-something that hadn't happened since 7th grade. And my mom continued nailing away at the academic excellence board, but my dad was no longer and immediate source of strength on the hammer, although he was always a phone call away.
My junior year destroyed the chances I had to remain with a group that meant so much to me. I was given a free ride for 3 semesters. And then my grades came into play once again. I was told that I hadn't maintained the average needed to keep my place in the NHS. Grades can either build you up or annihilate you. I learned this the hard way. As much as I want to play the victim; as much as I want to blame my lack of Becky; as much as I want to blame the situations of my home life; it's still my fault. And that's what I regret the most about my high school career.
Mom knew the right paths to take all along. If I had only emulated her, and had put my competition with Becky to rest, I'm quite sure my future would be different now. Those of you here tonight know the hard work it takes to keep your grades up. And if you know that, you know how much harder it is to admit your parents are actually right…sometimes. I made a goal for myself that I had hoped to achieve. But because I didn't work for it, I can no longer claim a spot next to these people who ALWAYS work hard. All I can do now is say to Mum and Becky, thanks for trying. I wish I could've been more like you guys.