If Mark was to be his class valedictorian the crowd might find it
a little more interesting than they expected.
One of my all-time favourite people in the world, who I love beyond words, has Tourette syndrome … and if he was to be his class valedictorian, the crowd might find it a little more interesting than they expected.
So, from his point of view …
Hi, I’m 17, have awesome marks, have done the most charity work this year, and have a boyfriend. His name’s Ben. Oh, and my name’s Mark.
Apparently, though, being 17 – good, having the highest marks – good, doing charity work – good, having a boyfriend – bad, and having Tourette’s – very bad. I make verbal tics – that means I shout out nonsense phrases. And even more of them when I’m nervous or scared! And I can’t control them.
Anyway, guess the name of the valedictorian who will not be allowed to speak at his grad. And guess who felt hurt for basically being told he wasn’t good enough to address the kids and parents he’d known since he was in diapers? Yep me, Mark Horne.
Instead, the principal, Mr. Gerkhoff, will spend 20 minutes telling the parents how great he is. And if having an 80-inch waist counts, he is. He’s given me a whole new perspective on a lot of things, like wondering how you pee if you can’t find which fold your dick is in, or wiping after a poop if you can’t reach your bum. I have a few others, too – but never mind those. Oh, and a whole new meaning to the word waddle.
Anyway, here I am, with a speech prepared, and nowhere to give it.
Or so I thought.
Then the week before grad, my dad and mom, along with like 50 people, walked into the school and headed for Gerkhoff’s office, sorry, it’s Mr. Gerkhoff’s office. Let’s just say there was a nice quiet conversation, and after they left, I was called into the office and told I would, in fact, be giving the valedictorian address next Friday.
Okay, so now it was time to feel scared shitless.
No problem, though, cause after some fantastic food, some weird looks, a few laughs, and some god-awful speeches from the powers that be, I was being escorted onto the stage, and yes, Mr. Gerkhoff mentioned how great he was.
Once there, behind the podium, I just stood looking around for several seconds, and then …
“Good evening everyone. (physics sucks!) … Sorry, Mr. Ross. First, I must say I want to (this shit stinks!) keep this short. The band is almost set up, and I’m (jerk!) ready to dance, ha-ha.
“I should tell (broccoli sucks! good lord!) you who I am. My name is Mark Horne, and I have Tourette’s Syndrome (this shit stinks!), so just in case I display (broccoli sucks!) verbal tics, I’m (physics sucks!) sorry. Like I said, they’re worse when I’m nervous (broccoli sucks!), and I’m very nervous (no, I didn’t!) right now. (broccoli sucks!).
“First, to our (wanker!) parents who’ve raised us, looked after us, (play naked! wanker!) and helped us through thick and thin. Thank you for your love and support throughout (broccoli sucks! good lord!) our years. And (broccoli sucks!) you’ve always been there for us, ready to lend a (this shit stinks!) hand whenever needed. Thank you that hearts that don’t need to come with instructions, and you’ve always loved us. And for me, (physics sucks! no, I didn’t!) the hands that held me when I felt lost, and (broccoli sucks!) the support that stood by me at any cost, at all times. Thank you. (wanker!) It’s because of (no, I didn’t!) your love and guidance that we are graduating today. And you’ll always be in our hearts. (broccoli sucks!).
“To our teachers (physics sucks! no, I didn’t!) over the years. Technology has made it easier for students to learn with devices, but nothing (this shit stinks! broccoli sucks!) can come close to the experience of being (play naked!) taught by inspirational teachers. (no, I didn’t) It was easy to take you for granted, but now it’s difficult to forget your inspirational words. (jerk! this shit stinks!) It was easy to misbehave in class, but it will be hard to overlook your motivational advice. (no, I didn’t!) Thanks for your patience (broccoli sucks!) while dealing with us and teaching us the way (wanker!) we wanted to learn. (Ben likes me!) Classrooms can survive without (jerk!) iPads and computers, but never without (wanker! broccoli sucks!) inspirational teachers. Thank you for being the irreplaceable teachers that you are.
“And as we’re here (physics sucks!) celebrating grad, amusingly or not, we have yet to write our final exams (good lord! broccoli sucks!), and while the emphasis is often placed (I like blue! wanker!) on how well we perform on tests.
“A principal at an un-named school wrote a letter, that went viral, (broccoli sucks! jerk!) to parents urging them to worry less about scores, and that their children’s (Ben likes me!) future success isn’t completely tied to (jerk! no I didnt’!) how well they perform on specific (broccoli sucks!) exams, he wrote:
“‘Those who get top marks, that’s great! But (Ben likes me!) if he or she doesn’t, please don’t take away their (broccoli sucks!) self-confidenc(e and dgnity. Tell them it’s okay, it’s just (wanker!) an exam! They are cut out for (physics sucks!) much bigger things no matter what they score, you love them and will not judge them. (play naked!) Please do this, and when you do, watch your (this shit stinks!) children conquer the world. One exam (jerk! blow me!) or low mark won’t take away their dreams and talent. And (I like blue! wanker!) please, do not think that actors and engineers are the only happy people in the world.’”
“To all my friends and (broccoli sucks!) classmates, the past years we enjoyed (good lord! I like blue!) doing things that only we need to ever know about yeah, folks, only we. And thank you (no, I didn’t!) matter what. We are part (broccoli sucks!) of memories and lives for (Ben likes me!) years to come and often forever. And I want to thank you, (physics sucks! play naked!) and your parents, for never feeding me broccoli, ha-ha.
“Still, for me, school work (physics sucks!) has been hard, but the worst has been trying to deal with (this shit stinks!) my Tourette’s, which I hate with a passion. I’m thankful for not having had too much. (Ben likes me!) ridicule and bullying (no, I didn’t!) to deal with. Again, thanks, guys.
I’m different, (broccoli sucks!) and I know I’m different. (blow me!) I can’t help it, and I can’t change it. Then (physics sucks!) I began to realize I like boys. After trying to hide it as long as I could, it, or I, came out (wanker! broccoli sucks!) when I started (I didn’t do it!) yelling, “Ben likes me,” when walking down the (good lord!) hallway. So, yes, I’m gay. And (broccoli sucks!) a couple of guys started bullying (Ben likes me!) me, that is until Ben, and the teachers (broccoli sucks!) made things very clear to the (this shit stinks!) full-of-themselves (play naked! broccoli sucks!) dickheads. Again, I thank all of you for standing by me.
“I think I’m one of the few (physics sucks!) who everyone on staff is pleased to see graduate, especially Mr. Gerkhoff. I think he saw me more than anybody. I think the rest like me. I think. Well, you know. I know Ben likes me, though. (broccoli sucks!)
“Thank you, everyone, for being here, for listening, and (I didn’t do it!) thank you to those who made it possible (physics sucks! broccoli sucks!) for all of us to be here, too.”
As I got ready to leave, the applause, cheers, shouts, and screams were awesome. So was the hot kiss I got from Ben after he ran up on stage.
“Fuck, I’m glad that’s over. (this shit stinks!) Oh damn, the mike’s (wanker! broccoli sucks!) still on? Sorry, that was just (I didn’t do it!) another tic folks,” I managed to say before the cheers and applause got even louder.
And as we stepped down, I couldn’t help but look at everyone, smile, and think, ‘I love being me.’ Hell, I have Tourette’s, I’m gay, and people still love me. And best of all, I love Ben, and Ben loves me because the heart doesn’t come with instructions. Love is love, and I like it that way.
Oh yeah, and play naked! As often as you can. It’s fun.
A special thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.
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