The Summer I Learned to Dive - By Shannon McCrimmon

Chapter 1

I bit on my fingernails, a terrible habit that I wish I could quit, scrutinizing my graduation speech for the millionth time. No matter how much I edited it, I still wasn’t satisfied. Trying to find the perfect words to convey within a matter of minutes is a fete most can’t accomplish. I wondered what sage advice I could offer to an audience that probably wouldn’t be listening anyway. What could I say that would leave a lasting impression or make a difference for that matter? I wanted what I said to be perfect and memorable, but instead it was going to sound cliché like any other valedictorian speech.

My mother knocked on my bedroom door interrupting me as I hit the delete button several times in frustration. I sighed and said, “Come in.” She walked in and tilted her head to the side, giving me that look – the one I knew all too well.

“Finn, how long are you going to spend on that speech?”

It was a reasonable question. More than three days had passed since I began writing it and I still wasn’t finished. Perfectionism can be a double-edged sword. She stood over my shoulder reading the words I had typed. I looked up at her seeking her approval. Her opinion was what mattered most to me, more than anything in the world. I knew she was the one person who could make the speech perfect.

“So, what do you think?” I asked her. She gestured for me to move so she could sit in front of my computer. She sat down and began reading it silently to herself analyzing every word, every phrase. Her face unreadable, she finished reading and looked at me.

Her forehead creased. “Finn, it looks good. I would just finish it with an inspirational quote, something...” she thought for a moment, “something motivational.” She stood up and tapped on the chair motioning for me to sit back down.

“A quote,” I said repeating her.

She looked at her watch and frowned. “You’ll find one. You just need to find it soon because we have to leave within the next hour.”

I bit on my nails again looking at the time on my computer screen. The ceremony was within an hour and I still wasn’t finished with the speech. I looked at her anxiously. She could read the expression on my face.

“It will make it better,” she added.

“An inspirational quote. Got it,” I said as I searched on Google for “inspirational quotes.”

“You’ll find something,” she said leaving me alone in my quest for perfection, if there were such a thing.

Searching for a few minutes, I found the quote that I wanted. Henry David Thoreau summed up what I wanted to say. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”


I stood inside my school’s gym and watched as the other students hugged each other and said their goodbyes, upset that change was imminent. It was awkward watching them, like I was an outsider. I definitely was not an insider. I felt like I should do something, instead of standing there feeling ridiculous. I didn’t know who to talk to. No one really knew me. I didn’t give them the time. I saw my mother standing at the edge of the bleachers. She was smiling proudly at me. I had pleased her with my speech. I’m glad someone was happy with it. Sure there was applause at the end, but it seemed like forced etiquette. The speech wasn’t authentic enough for me. It was a struggle to try and motivate people toward greatness when I had barely lived. I began to walk toward her with my diploma in hand but was stopped by Carter Davis, one of the best looking boys in the school.

“Hi Finn. That was a great speech,” he said. I looked up at him, his brown hair cropped short to his perfectly shaped head.

“Thanks,” I said suddenly fidgeting, mindlessly playing with my hair. It was a horrible nervous habit that only hot guys in my presence could evoke. We had never talked to each other until this day.

He smiled at me. “Will you sign my yearbook?”

I nodded yes, even though I didn’t know what to say to him. “Sure,” I said and took it from his hands. I told him to have a great summer and good luck in the future; basic clichés’ that are reserved for occasions like this. What else can you say to someone you don’t really know?

He read what