"Friends, family, graduates..."

I watch my best friend Jane as she paces back and forth, practicing her speech in the darker corner of the stage. She stands behind the closed thick curtains, anxiously waiting for the program to start. As valedictorian, she was asked to speak at our high school graduation. Generally, she wouldn't be nervous about public speaking, but our school's graduating class this year was huge. There were three to four hundred graduates who would receive Jane's speech, plus any of their family and friends. Jane was dressed in a blue cap and gown. Underneath, I can see a sparkly pink dress down to her ankles. I see she fixed her blond hair into golden waves hanging at her shoulders.

I glance at my own cap and gown which were lying limp in my arms, then cast a glance my dirty sneakers. I shrug. I don't really care that much about 'dolling myself up'. I would rather be natural. Running a mile is less of a bother when you don't have makeup leaking down into your eyes. I watch her as she shakes her head and repeats the first line with more gusto, and peppier than before.

"Friends, family, graduates!" She shakes her head again, and I interrupt by walking up next to her. "Oh, Mickey! Hi! What are you doing back here?"

She gives me a quick hug then notices my regalia "Why aren't you wearing your gown?"

She is horrified as she sees what I plan on wearing underneath it. "What are you wearing?!"

She stares at my shoes, my ripped jeans, and lastly my gray T-shirt with a band on it. I'm not familiar with the band, it was just clean and in my closet, so I put it on. Okay, it may have been on the floor…and dirty, but it smells fine.

"I don't know. Why does it matter? I'm going to have the gown over it anyway, so no one's going to see it."

She rolls her eyes. "Oh boy. I don't understand why you don't get anything I teach you. I mean, even Austin is at least wearing a button-up shirt and khakis!"

Austin's my other best friend, and Jane's "sort of" friend. He's more like me than I was like Jane. He prefers being outdoors and doing 'sport-like' activities. Normally, he'd dress like I am now. Jeans, T-shirt, sneakers. Jane glances at someone who hurried by with a cart of diploma cases.

"I gotta go. I have to practice a few more times. So wait, why are you back here again?"

"I was asked to help back here until everyone's seated, and after your speech."

"What if you miss getting called?"

I shrug. "My last name's Monroe. I'm practically at the end of the line...well, more like halfway to th—it doesn't matter, I won't be late. Besides, I wouldn't mind not graduating just yet."

Jane glares harshly at me, then softens her expression into more of a 'We've been over this a million times' look, complete with an eye roll.

"Mick, we've been over this a million times. You have to graduate! Just get on with your life! Think about how ridiculous you're being! Last month, you wanted to fail your last classes, just so you could have a fifth year of high school! Who does that?!"

I shrug. "Someone who's not sure what they want to do with their life? Still sounds like a good idea to me."

"Stop being a baby! You know what you want to do, you just have to get out there and do it!"

I look away, trying to change the subject. I've been throwing around some ideas for what I want to do with my life, but I don't want to get a college degree and start work, only to realize that I actually hate that occupation! Or what if I start down the road, only to have someone tell me I'm not good enough to do that? I'm not creative enough, intelligent enough, or I'm not spontaneous enough? What if I do well for a while, and then bomb it, and destroy a company? What if I get someone's hopes up with something, and then mess it up, crushing them and their loyalty forever?! I'd rather just stay in my shell. Maybe if I always fail, I won't be expected to succeed?

Pt. 2 available soon!!