Life reflections from a former graduate

By Elyssa Parnell

June 5, 2014

With the newly graduated high school classes from 2014 making those next steps into adulthood this week, it has really gotten me to reflect on my own life experiences. This week in general has been full of experiences and memories for me personally.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to step back into a role at my church as our youth group at Wightman United Methodist led the service with youth Sunday. Wightman has been a part of my life since I was in the eighth grade. I was invited to attend youth group one Sunday night with a friend of mine, and I never looked back.

Through that group, I was able to find a real passion in my faith and my walk with God, as I was a part of the youth’s team, “R.I.O.T.” which stands for Righteous Invasion of Teens. As a group, we witnessed to others about Christ through sign language, interpretive dance, and through the use of dowel rods.

I’ve always been a shy person, finding that it took a little longer for me to make friends than most. Wightman was really a huge stepping stone for not only my faith life, but for my personal life as well. Through them, I found a true church family, and made friends that I know will last a lifetime. I’m forever grateful to the leadership I had with my youth group leaders and for my dear friend that took the time to invite me to his church.

With graduations this week, I was present to watch over 150 graduates from my alma mater of Mid-Carolina High School walk across that stage with excitement for the future, but also nervousness for what they would be doing next. I remember that day just like it was yesterday.

I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school, then attend college, then begin a career. Yet, looking back, I wish I’d taken the time to slow down and truly enjoy those times — learn more, laugh more, and just to sit back and be thankful for what these experiences would now mean to me and to my future.

Thursday I had the chance to sit down and spend a little time with my band director from high school. Yes, call me a band nerd … it’s nothing I haven’t heard before.

Band was a huge part of my life from the sixth grade up until I graduated from high school, marching band especially. Through that group, I found another home, another family. I learned many life lessons in that classroom and performing at Friday night football games that have gotten me to this point in my career.

Being a part of the marching band was truly like being a part of an extended family; after all, you did practice every day, then continue with competitions on weekends, and overnight trips. It’s because of band that I’m always punctual (or try to be) to almost everything. It’s why I like things scheduled out in front of me.

But really, this week has just taught me a little more about myself and made me even more thankful to have had the opportunities that I’ve been given up until this point.

John Pugh spoke to graduates Wednesday evening at Mid-Carolina by explaining to them that they were “up to their eyeballs” in debt. What he meant was that to every teacher that took the time to help them, every cafeteria worker that prepared their food, etc. that their life had been forever changed by that. For me, I feel I’ll always be indebted to these people.

To my parents, thank you for always supporting my dreams and encouraging me that I can be anything that I set my mind to. To my youth group leaders and Wightman church family, thank you for planting that small mustard seed that has helped blossom my faith into the Christian that I consider myself today.

And to my teachers, including my band director, thank you for instilling in me more than what can be learned from the classroom, but life lessons I’ll never forget.

Congratulations to the Class of 2014! May you be blessed with wonderful life experiences, as your lives are truly just beginning.