The Rebellious, the Confident, and the Honest: A Solo Act

The Rebellious, the Confident, and the Honest: A Solo Act


Mark W. Sasse


In two hours, I’ll be standing in procession, walking down the middle aisle with the teary-eyed faces of friends and family cheering me on. I’ll hear my name announced loudly and clearly: Jenny Anne Folsom. I’ll take a deep breath and step onto the podium, reach out with my (confused) right hand to shake with the principal while holding out my left to receive that piece of paper I’ve been dreaming about for these last twelve years.

And just like that, (snaps her finger), this chapter of my life will be finished.


Suddenly at the turn of 18, I’m an adult, like someone flipped a switch and instructing the universe to unplug me from everything I’ve ever known – as if this diploma in my hand automatically matures me and ushers me into adulthood.

I’m supposed to be ready. My parents tell me that I’m ready. My high school transcript says I’m ready. My birth certificate says so too.

But what if I’m not.

Some graduates are wild stallions, born and bred to roam freely, yearning to be unshackled from parental authority. My friend Sheila is like that. Here’s what she always says:

SHEILA: Oh, I cannot wait to get out of here. If I have to sit under one more lecture from Mr. Jones on morality, I’m going to throw a vulgarity into his face, and see if his morality can repulse it. I swear I’m going to do it. He makes me sick. This place makes me sick. They treat us like we’re morons. They say they’re preparing us for real life by making us live in this sheltered cocoon which is nothing like real life. All they’re doing is stifling us. You know what I’m going to do in college, everything I couldn’t in high school. Then I’ll make my own decisions about life, not what these narrow-minded people think. The world is mine to conquer and experience and nothing is going to stop me.

Don’t judge Sheila too harshly. She’s unsettled, like we all are, but she verbalizes it more forcefully than most. She needs to find out for herself if there is meaning in the frivolities of life. I know what college will be like for Sheila, and I worry for her, but yet I understand her. We all have a small sliver of Shiela within us. A streak of rebellion that wants to dabble in the unknown. But I could never be like here.

I’m supposed to be ready. My parents tell me that I’m ready. My high school transcript says I’m ready. My birth certificate says so too.

But what if I’m not.

My friend Tori was born ready. She skipped third grade and joined my fourth grade class, the same fourth grade class that I almost flunked. Tori has been the top student in school ever since. She spent last summer as an Ivy League intern – as a high school junior – and she’ll be going to Harvard tuition-free. I wish I had her confidence.

TORI: I know exactly what I’m going to do with my life. A 2380 SAT score gives one that luxury. Some call me full of myself or overly ambitious, but my parents told me one thing: “Never apologize for your God-given gifts” and I never have. I know where I want to be when I’m 30, 40, 50, and at sixty, I’ll have thirty more years of bliss from my sea-side resort in Santorini while most of my classmates don’t even know where that is. Some call me cocky, but I’m not. I have sure-footedness. My goal is simple, by twenty-three I will have passed the bar and have earned my MBA. Corporate law for twenty years will make me one of the youngest woman CEOs in history. Yes, it is ambitious, but there’s nothing to stop me but myself. I just have one bit of advice for my contemporaries: stay out of my way.

Yes, Tori is intense. I admire her confidence and I hope life turns out well for her, but I can’t afford such lofty sentiments when I have this mountain of doubt within me. In an hour, I’ll be standing in procession, but I’m scared to death.

I’m supposed to be ready. My parents tell me that I’m ready. My high school transcript says I’m ready. My birth certificate says so too.

But what if I’m not.

What if I can’t handle college? What if I can’t pass my classes? Will my parents be disappointed with me? Will they lament all the money that they threw down the drain? My parents aren’t rich. Maybe I shouldn’t go to college. Maybe I should just get a job.

Money is one thing, but if I can be honest, there’s something more that I worry about. There’s more important things than money to lose.

What if I step out into the secular world and mess everything up?  What if I do something that will embarrass my parents? What if I become one of those statistics – you know the ones – what if I become one of those teens who experiences new ideas in college and end up walking away from how I’ve been raised. What if in two years I will be the one to denounce my faith and yell to the sky that God is dead? What happens then?

Would I be the subject of stares and whispers? “She’s the one. And she comes from such a good family.  Such a shame.”

(emotional) What if I can’t do it?

(yelling offstage to her mother) What? Okay, Mom. Okay. I’m almost ready. I’ll be there in a moment.

But what’s my alternative?

I can’t very well repeat my senior year for the next twenty years.

I have no idea what the future holds for us graduates. Perhaps Sheila will find the freedom she desires.  Perhaps Tori will find the success which seems so assured.

But, what if Sheila learns that freedom can be confining?

What if Tori learns that success can be a millstone around one’s neck?

What if I learn that doubt is normal and that the fear I feel inside my chest is no different from what Sheila or Tori are experiencing?

(hears her mother’s voice again)

Yes, Mom. I’m coming.

I honestly don’t know where I’ll be a year from now or five years from now. I don’t know if I’m going to make my parents proud or if I will be a disappointment, but here’s what I choose to believe: Our future isn’t etched in stone. It’s the choices we make, the trials we learn from, and the truths we allow ourselves to believe.

The day is finally here. I may be nervous, I may have my doubts, but it’s here, and if I can be honest with you, I’m excited.

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