I graduated high school in 1984.  It was the era of the big hair, music like "The Cars" and "Huey Lewis & The News" and styles that ranged from punk to alligatored logo preppy. 

my senior year - 17 years old
I was 17 years old when I graduated from high school.  The world is wide open to you at 17.  I was full of myself, my perceived vat of knowledge and a boat load of dreams.  What do you really know at 17?  What vast experiences of life have you really weathered?  What view of the world have you garnered from living life both in joy and in deep times of sorrow?  What do you really have to say to others that has been forged in real life experiences? 

Some time ago I was rifling through my filing cabinet, you know supposedly cleaning it out but getting side tracked with each treasure I uncovered that I didn't know I had.  In a file folder was a large stack of things I had written in my youth - poems, thoughts, etc.  Some were assignments for school and some were just things I felt and thought.  There it was - double spaced typewritten on a Selectric typewriter with water marked paper turning a bit yellow with corrections using white out still clearly showing.  I laughed out loud as I started to read it, the speech I wrote and delivered at my high school commencement. 

my high school commencement - accompaniment for choir
(song arranged by Rich Biever, "Our Time"
Rich, I still have the score if you want it back.)
As I read it I tried to remember what I might have been thinking in 1984 (now 29 years ago) as I wrote "Successful Failures".  Why, I thought to myself, did I write on how to fail in a positive way?  What massive failures had I really had up to that point in my life.  Well, let's see... I didn't get grand champion on the swim suit I had made and modeled for 4-H.  The young man that I loved had married another.  I got a D in computer programming.  I had to wear braces for 4 years.  And I got in massive trouble with my dad for taking the car without having a driver's license and driving myself to a school function when my ride failed to pick me up (Trent Dean you caused me to endure my father asking me if I was on drugs because of my behavior!).  It was the middle of winter on very snowy roads and no one was home to take me so it seemed oh so very logical to me at the moment.
What volume of failings had I racked up to that day in May, 1984 as I stood before my 200 classmates to deliver a speech written by a green horn in life?  (FYI - my parents camera broke right before I gave that speech so the only picture was this one of me playing the piano for the choir number.  I am the third of three children.  There are rare to none growing up pics of me.  By number three you just don't care to have a third set of pictures of everything the other two already did!)

There were references to the times - Ronald Reagan and other time specific mentions.  I smiled of an era long gone.  But, as I read the words penned by me without the wisdom of life behind me yet, I realized I had failed many times from that day to where I stood now.  Maybe that speech was like the movie, "Back To The Future" and I was actually coming back from the future to 1984 to tell my young self how to handle failing at experiences that would come my way through the years. 

The line that jumped off the double-spaced pages was, "We can be marked not by how we fail, but by what we do when we fail."  I liked the comma in that sentence as it showed me and King David from the Bible, and the Apostle Paul and my Uncle John and maybe you, that there is a choice to be made after missing the mark. That I am measured by earth and ultimately, by God, not by what I failed at, but how I lived after the comma - after the failure, the mistake, the wrong decision, or even the sin.   

Ladies and gentleman, I now present to you the 2013 Class of Comma Living.

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