Guest Post: Commencement 2013

It’s a tantalizing time of year:  The sound of lawnmowers and DIY home project hammers.  The scorch of play ground swings on wee bums.  The scraps of sun filtering through the 8 pm haze.  The anticipation of school-free summer days stretching unfettered ahead.  The end of a school year always carries some delicious trepidation: What will I do with myself next?  I ask myself that question as the mom of a four-year-old soon to graduate from her year of preschool.  I asked myself that question just a *few* years back when I was a high school graduate sweating in a cap and gown.

Today’s guest post comes from Alexis Bower, an accomplished 2013 graduate of Williamsport Area High School, who has asked “What will I do with myself next?” and answered with wisdom beyond her years.  No matter what our stage in life, we are all beginning something.  Alexis’s thoughts on commencement speak to each of us.  I’m thrilled to share her insights with you as we all strive to sew beauty in all circumstances of life.

On Dandelions, Softball, and Life

Does this flower look familiar? Is it a thing of beauty or a lawn destroying weed? Graduates of the Class of 2013, we’re a lot like dandelions. Throughout our lives we’ll be tempted to make a mess out of the area in which we’re planted, but we will also have the opportunity to spread beauty.

Dandelions are thought to be the most familiar plants in the world. Their bright yellow appearance can catch your eye whether you look at the flower as a thing of beauty or a killer to your yard. Here is my question to all of you, what does a dandelion represent to you?

When I think of a dandelion I envision myself on the ball field walking back to the mound after an out has been recorded and relaying it to the rest of the team. As I look across the sea of green grass I can’t help but admire the springtime yellow beauties that accompany our outfielders. Sarah Wirth, a fellow senior and respected teammate of mine once said, “Dandelion seeds remind me of my class- we will be blown in the wind until we land on our feet and make something beautiful.” We each have our own unique ways in which we are able to plant ourselves and become beautiful. Some of us may be blown to college, some straight to careers, some into the armed forces. Some of us will bloom immediately, and some will take a little longer to find the right soil. Regardless of where the wind blows us, we’ll each need to carry some important lessons from our life now along with us. We’ll need courage, determination, opportunity, wisdom, and achievement.

Like the dandelion, my years of playing softball have taught me courage, determination, opportunity, wisdom, an achievement.

Courage is represented by the batters box. As a player, you need to step in the batters box and have the courage to face any pitch that comes your way and hit it. In life, courage is the ability to confront fear, pain, uncertainty, or intimidation. Stepping into the batters box shows that you have the courage that many others do not. Make sure you step up to the plate with a purpose. Do everything for a purpose. Think, “will this decision allow for me to make it a step closer to my goal”? If the answer is no then why do it? Yes, we are meant to blow in the wind, but once we are planted we need courage to make decisions that will create something beautiful instead of destroying the lawn.

Determination is represented by first base. Reaching first base requires a lot of determination because most people find it a struggle to hit the ball in the first place. Determination is the firmness of purpose or resoluteness. First base, like determination, is only the beginning of something much greater that brings about opportunity.

Opportunity is found on second base. Opportunity is a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something greater. Reaching second base is a huge opportunity because you are now in scoring position and could potentially score on a good hit. Nobody wants to get stranded on first, so don’t stop at determination. Steal the chance or opportunity to advance to something better.

Taking full advantage of third base requires wisdom both on your own and from your trusted support system. From third base you need to score, but the other team will not allow you to score easily. Rely on your third base coach for guidance. They are your support system and will help you attain the wisdom that you need in order to score. Before our district playoff game in May of 2012 a strong supporter of mine told me, “ Good luck… Listen to coach… it will help. No eye rolling… take charge… you’re a competitor and were made for games like today. Focus on the gift you were given. Swing sweet not hard. I have a radio all set up and will listen to every play!” We won this game by one run in the bottom of the seventh inning when our coach made the decision to have the batter lay a bunt down with bases loaded and send the runner on third immediately home when the ball hit the bat. Our coach was able to supply the runner on third base with the guidance she needed in order to make the wise decision to score as soon as the bunt was laid down. The same coach also told me, “No matter how hard you try you cannot hit an 8 run homerun.” You cannot do everything alone. Teammates, coaches, and fans play a huge role in reaching home plate because they provide you with the support system you need to make wise choices. Use past experiences, knowledge, good judgment, and your support system so you don’t make a rash decision to get picked off or prevented from scoring. Your wisdom will open the way for achievement.

Home plate is your final achievement. Achievement is something done successfully, typically by effort, courage, or skill. Touching home plate is the biggest achievement as a team in the game of softball because the ultimate goal is to score as many runs as you can and reach success, which is winning the game. My most memorable softball season as a Williamsport Millionaire came my sophomore year in 2011. A Williamsport softball team had not come close to a district championship in quite some time and that year we made history. We were able to win the Central Penn league and become the number one seed going into districts. After that we went on to become district 2-4 champions by defeating Hazelton, our arch enemy, in the district semi finals and then Wallenpaupack in the finals. Looking back at our successful 2011 season, all or our games were simply little achievements that led the way into more achievements that brought about a successful 2012 season as well. One or two runs won the toughest games in both seasons. We had to use courage, determination, opportunity, wisdom and achievement in order to achieve our ultimate success. It’s the same recipe for success we need in all of the closest games of our lives.

Class of 2013, We’re about to be blown toward some of life’s greatest challenges- setting out on our own for college, careers, and families. We can’t always control where the wind blows us, but we can determine our success once we’re planted if we carry with us our courage, determination, opportunity, wisdom, and achievement. As you land in a new place, step up to the plate and have the courage to begin something that many others only dream about. Don’t stop there, use determination go to the next base. Opportunity is waiting for those of us with the greatest amount of determination. We must be wise and seek wise counsel to make the most out of our opportunities. Once we find wisdom to make smart decisions we will in return be able to reach more achievements and become more successful.

Softball has taught me to use courage, determination, opportunity, wisdom, and achievement to my advantage in every goal that I have wished to achieve thus far. It has also helped me and will continue to help me understand to not take the wind for granted and shed beauty to where ever I may be planted. Throughout our lives we can be weeds, or we can stay strong and allow our courage, determination, opportunity, wisdom, and achievement bring out our true beauty. We’re about to be tossed to the wind, but remember, dandelion seeds are meant to catch the wind in order to regrow and survive in another location. I challenge you: once you shed some beauty in one area pack up your seeds and do it again. Now, class of 2013, go, blow in the wind and strive to make your lives things of beauty.

About the Author

Alexis Bower is a Senior of the Class of 2013 at Williamsport Area Senior High School. She has been a member of her high school softball team since her freshman year and has accomplished much in those four years as a player as well as a student. All of her hard work earned her a scholarship to attend Saint Francis University in the fall of 2013 to study Occupational Therapy and play softball. She was inspired to audition to speak at her high school graduation and wrote this speech as a result. She credits her senior English teacher with helping her to become very fond of writing.  Reflecting on her high school years, Alexis realized she wanted to try and leave her own mark on her class other than being “that girl who plays softball.”  Her resulting speech clearly comes from her heart and shows the real “Alexis”–a multi-talented, mature, insightful, and wise young woman who will most certainly continue to spread her seeds of beauty wherever she lands.

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One Comment

  1. Jo said:

    Alexis, your speech is wonderful! Thought provoking & full of wisdom. So proud of you. I have loved watching you grow from an adorable kid into the amazing young woman you are today, embracing challenges, overcoming obstacles, spreading beauty. God has already planted you in more lives than you know. Happy flying, happy planting, happy growing!

    May 21, 2013
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