A little humor and hope to help you cope.
Transcription/Written Version :
By Kelly Swanson
So settle in and let me tell you what happened. We don’t have much time.
We were all surprised when we got the news. Just a few months ago.
It had finally happened.
My nephew, Bo Beam Junior, was finally going to graduate
Which to those who knew him would constitute a miracle
if you knew Bo Beam, you would understand our shock – as his favorite pastime was shooting empty beer cans off the back deck.
Any extracurricular activity tied to his name usually started with the words wouldn’t it be funny if, and ended up with “oh man now that’s gonna leave a mark.”
It was quite clear that Budweiser did most of Bo Beam’s thinking for him.
As far as scholastic ambitions – well we hadn’t ever seen him dream too far beyond that back deck
So it was quite hard to believe that Bo Beam was going to walk across that stage in the proverbial rite of passage into being an official adult, even though he’d had a beard since middle school
Bo’s mamma made it quite clear that she expected everyone to be in attendance – not so much to see her son grab that diploma – but for her to show off her new rear end implants – oh yeah- it’s a thing – I heard All the Kardahsians have ‘em – which were surely an affront to whoever invented them – as Bo’s mama did not need an extra boost to the caboose. It was bordering ridiculous. Nobody had the heart to tell her they were crooked.
Thanks to the Covid, Bo’s mamma had not gotten the proper runway to show off her new hindquarters.
Bo’s graduation was her chance
She had already bought the dress – which she showed us all on facebook – bright orange – and it fit her extra tight
I think it was made of 90% spandex, 10% prayer that those fibers would hold
I can just imagine that dress cowering in the closet and praying for strength. How’d you like that job? I can relate. My bras have been protesting for years.
Can I say bra on a webinar?
Oh well. Cat’s out of that bag.
Anyway, Bo’s mamma made it clear that we were all expected to attend this monumental event and that he was registered at Bojangles and Buster’s Bait and Tackle. And all of us were working even harder than that dress to make up an excuse not to come.
And then the Corona hits, and the world turns upside down – and among a bunch of other crappy things, graduation, like everything else in the world, went virtual
And we all got updated invitations to Bo Beam’s Hybrid graduation
This created quite a bit of confusion as that part of the family wasn’t exactly a technologically savvy bunch. Or any kind of savvy – truth be told.
Some were asking did Hybrid graduation mean we had to all come in cars with plugs?
Others wondered did it mean we had to mix up and sit with different people
And the more conservative in the family had no idea what it meant, but were fairly convinced it was against their religion.
Apparently Hybrid means that some parts are live and some parts are virtual. Kind of like a combination. And good grief, couldn’t they have just said THAT in the first place?
So Bo’s graduation was gonna take place in the parking lot of the Wild Willies Weiner Wagon since the school was closed and Wild Willie was gonna offer all graduates a two-for-one footlong special.
Only immediate family could come to that – since space was limited and you had to eat your hotdogs six feet apart – so the rest of us were gonna be live streamed in on our computers.
We never figured out how that was gonna work, and neither could Bo’s mamma. And since she wasn’t one for following the rules – she came up with her own easier plan.
We’d all just show up in the Zoom room where we’d been meeting for weeks, and she’d take us with her to the graduation.
And she was gonna be the designated driver, so we could all drink.
Yeah. You heard me right. Bo Beam’s Mamma just figured she’d bring us all to the graduation on her phone in a zoom call. And we’d all get a front row seat without ever having to leave our house.
Which actually was the first silver lining in this whole mess. Because who doesn’t secretly love a chance to miss out on sitting in a hot parking lot for three hours waiting to hear your kid’s name? Hot dog or not.
This way, we didn’t even have to get dressed
Bo’s mamma told us to be ready at 9am sharp in front of our computers, cause she wanted to pick us up early – cause she had errands to run – and wanted to show us how good her car looked since Bo detailed it for her birthday
So there we all were sitting there on the front seat of her car staring up her armpit – which is not her best angle, listening to her go on and on about how her baby’s graduating and she doesn’t look a day over 25. While her new dress was sweating through the pressure of its first day on the job.
We didn’t know she was gonna pull into the Bojangles to pick up a bucket of fried chicken for the graduation. We tried to explain to her that wasn’t a tailgate, but she wasn’t listening. Then we had to drive around since decided she better get something to eat since she didn’t know how long it would be – and an extra Bo Biscuit or two couldn’t hurt to have on hand. Just in case. And then we had to make a third trip around the drive through cause there wasn’t enough sweet in her tea.
And then she had to take us by the drugstore to get more bunion pads because the shoes weren’t faring much better than the dress – which we got to see first hand when she turned the corner too hard and her phone fell on the floorboard and we got a birds eye view of her feet. Appeared there was more foot outside the shoe than in it – and suddenly we were all craving canned biscuits.
So she brings us into the drugstore, points out Naomi who works the counter and just got her fifteenth face ring – no judgment. And then she takes us to the As Seen on TV aisle to get our opinion on whether she should get the skin dermasuction system, or the pink slicone baking pan in the shape of a pig. It was a tie vote, which she took to mean buying both. We all got to meet Naomi at the register. No judgement.
By the time we got to the graduation ceremony, we were already exhausted
Uncle Skeeter had been snoring since the Bojangles
We figured it would be pretty boring and uneventful from there.
We were wrong.
Bo Beam had arrived earlier than his mamma, so she was left to carry everything herself.
So it was quite the ordeal watching her get out of the car. She was gathering the bucket of chicken, and all her stuff out of the car, and trying to shut the door with her foot, and waving to her friend Nadine who had just pulled up, and trying to stick her butt out like the Kardashians, which no lie looked like a shelf had grown out her back – and she needed an extra hand, so she had to throw that phone where she always does when she’s got her hands full. Her bosom.
Yes. That’s right. In seconds our world went dark as we found ourselves drowning in the plunging neckline that was rumored to once hold a pacifier, a flask, a pack of crayons, two tissues and a travel Bible.
That’s right. She shoved us down there and didn’t look back.
I’m pretty sure I was looking at a nail file and a pack of breath mints.
It was quiet down there. All you could hear was people breathing and saying “What happened? Did the power go out?”
It was my cousin who spoke first……she needs to pluck that chin hair, he said. And we all nodded.
Now there’s all these people out there. All talking and squealing and Bo’s Mamma was talking so loud, we didn’t stand a chance on being heard.
So we just sat there. I mean it felt rude to leave the graduation. We are from the south after all. Manners.
I was kind of thinking this must be what it feels like to be buried alive.
As we listened to the muffled voice of the announcer calling out each kid’s name over the karaoke microphone, it gave me some time to think. And reflect.
To think about the day I stood on that stage at my own high school graduation.
And it made me realize that even though we’ve already most of us had our own Jack and Diane moments well behind us – we were still in a way – standing there with those kids – in the middle of this crazy world right now – feeling a little bit the same way as those graduates
Like we’re standing right in the middle of where we just were and where we might be headed
Not knowing what’s ahead
Or how to prepare for it
And not even getting a chance to study for it
Wishing we could go back as the past shoos us out the door and wishes us good luck
And I remember being back there – high school – so full of hope and excitement – that the world was ours.
Remember that feeling?
I was broke, no direction, no good plan
And yet – I felt invincible
And how I would love to have that feeling back
And it was there that I had that hindsight moment I didn’t even see coming – where the girl I was back then would whisper to the woman I am now and I’d get a chance to do the same
And I began to wonder what would I tell her back then? Based on what I know now?
Cause that’s the way it is – when the young folks graduate, we feel a sense of obligation to give them advice – help them see life through seasoned eyes – even knowing they won’t listen.
And as I thought of what I’d tell myself, I realized it might just be what I need to hear right now.
And so right there – tucked between the loving domes of Bo’s Mamma – I delivered a silent commencement speech. My message to the Covid Class of 2020 – no matter how old you are, or what “stage” you stand on.
My commencement address began like this:
Dear Graduating class of 2020, it’s a special day – as you embark on the grand new journey in life. Which is pretty much overselling it. Grand journey? Yeah. About that. A lot of it is going to suck. I’m just saying. It is. The virus? Case in point. But it can still be a grand adventure. But that won’t be the universe’s job. It will be yours. So make it happen. Turn everything into an adventure – even the sucky parts. One day you’ll look back and be surprised – that some of your best moments happened in the yucky times – or maybe even because of it.
If I could go back to where you stand, and give myself advice, I’d say….
- Tequila Shots are not your friend. I’m serious kids. You have nothing to prove. You may feel cool lining them up on the bar and hearing your friends chant. But you’ll end up somewhere with your head between your knees. They should rename that drink “sex on the beach” to “throw up in the parking lot.” I’m just saying.
- Take the time to find your people. I fell into the wrong crowd early. And you sort of start to become like the people you’re hanging out with. Guess I should be glad I didn’t hang out with the naked skateboarders on campus. Even now, while I give my own kid that advice, I’m realizing how true it is for me too. I can choose – to hang out with the people who encourage me, lift me up, dare me to dream, look for silver linings, and force me to look for opportunity. Or I can hang out with people who are angry – convinced the world is ending – desperate to find the worst story. And here’s the deal. Where you look is where you land. Have you chosen the right people to whisper into your ear? It’s not too late.
- Start dreaming now – this isn’t just a pause. I think I felt like college was my chance to wander around and just “be”. Take the classes they said to take. Go with the flow. There’s nothing wrong with being relaxed. But I wish I could go back and really start dreaming of what I wanted to be. Instead of waiting until later – or like some people, never. Back then – dreaming comes easier. But it gets harder the older you get. And for some of us – well one day we just stop. Which is fine. Your choice. But that’s not going to be my choice. Virus or not, I want to be excited. I want to dream. And not just hit pause. But let this quarantine moment really push me to see what I can create NOW. How I can use this moment to see, do, be something I’ve never been before. Think I’m too old? Just watch me.
Another thing I’d go back and tell myself standing on that high school stage –
- You don’t have to figure it all out now – it won’t really matter. I know, you’re probably like WTH, she just told me to start dreaming, and now she’s telling me not to bother. But here’s the deal. Plans, life goals, vision boards – they look good on paper but they never work out the way you plan. Which is okay. That’s the way life is supposed to be. Plans and dreams help guide you towards the life you want. Having no plan guides you off the side of the road. Dreams don’t die they just take a different shape. Sorry to get all motivational speaker on you – but the more you have a death grip on how you think life should go – the more you will be disappointed.
And I think that is EXACTLY what I need to hear right now. I’m standing in the middle of a storm nobody saw coming – nobody could prevent – and nobody really knows how to deal with. So not having any answers. Not knowing what to do next. Is okay. It’s okay to have a moment when you just don’t have a plan. A moment when you have to realize today you aren’t in control of this. So let it be. And then you’ll get a chance to control the next moment.
Wow. That’s deep. And I’m not even drinking!
- Don’t focus on what isn’t, or you’ll miss what is. It’s from my theater show. I’ll send you a flyer. But self promotion aside – it’s true. If you look for bitter, you’ll always find it. Sounds hokey now. But’s pretty much everything. I still spend way too much time looking at what I’m not. I need to stop because I’m pretty flipping amazing.
I remember at the beginning of this situation, I was really really focused on what wasn’t happening. What jobs I wasn’t getting. The things I was losing. The money going down the drain. And I just kept feeling worse – to the point I even found it hard to breathe.
So I stopped and reprogrammed. I would not let my brain hold the space for what was bad – and only for what was good about this. The silver linings. And the more I looked, the more I found.
And once I started feeding my brain the good, the more good started showing up. And suddenly opportunities were knocking on my door. Opportunities that I never would have seen if I hadn’t been looking. What’s knocking on your door?
If I could go back and give myself advice, I would say
- Don’t be all about the guy. Self-explanatory. Good advice that we never listen to.
You may think that advice only fits the young graduate. But think about it. It’s not really about “the guy” – it’s about allowing your happy ending to be held in the hands of someone else. The guy – or the bully in your life. The one you give your power away to. The one you wait to make you happy.
Are you making it all about the guy? Is it time to take ownership of your own happiness?
Another piece of advice –
- Don’t forget your family. They loved you first, and they’ll love you last. You’ll forget that sometimes. But one day you’ll get where I am and realize it’s ALL that matters.
And as I was thinking about that – good advice to give a graduate – but not all families are created equal. And some family wasn’t there for you when they should have been.
Which brings me to a different kind of family. Not just the one you got – but the one that chose you – and the one you chose.
Because while you may not have relatives that showed up for you – we can all have family. It’s never too late. They are the people we choose to do life with.
And I don’t care how old you are – it’s not too late – to build a family you love – who loves you right back. You just might have to go first.
- Best way out of the dark is to be someone else’s light. That sounds like something you’d see on a bumper sticker. But it’s really true. There will be times when you lose your happy. When it’s dark, and you just want to crawl up and disappear. And there is a time and a season for that. But there’s this one surefire way to make yourself feel better – and that’s to focus on someone else’s problems. Do that, and there will be no space for yours. Works every time. And you often find that helping someone find their happy, often brings enough for you too.
And the last piece of advice I’d go back and give myself:
Always look up. Find the something bigger. Something bigger than you. Your job. Your family. The bigger why. That faith will carry you when you just can’t walk any longer alone.
Oh yeah. And few more things I’d go back and tell myself:
- Don’t go up and talk to that guy with the mullet and the cut off t-shirt – it will not end well.
- That tattoo will not be cute when you gain a hundred pounds.
- And while you may think it’s beautiful to walk down the aisle of your wedding to meet your groom holding a microphone and singing Shania Twain’s You’re the One – you will one day regret it.
We all clapped that day when Beauregard Ernhardt Beam, Jr went up to accept his diploma and his foot long. But I’m not sure anybody heard us.
Bo’s mamma held up well during the ceremony. Her dress, however, snapped under the pressure somewhere in the afternoon festivities. The story gets pretty ugly after that, and I’m pretty sure it’s better left to your imagination.
So in closing to all the graduates of 2020 – young and old – I wish you all the best of luck – and hope that somewhere in this story – you found a little humor and hope – or at the very least, at little gratitude that you aren’t our family.
Until next time, be well, be safe, and find something that makes you laugh.