Speech giving at birthdays is a tad like eulogizing at funerals in that everyone is singing your praises. “Sniffle, sniffle...he was such a great guy. He always made the best hard tack.” Et cetera. And we’ve all heard the old joke that most speakers would rather be in the casket than up delivering. Well, I now have the dubious honor of giving the eulogy at my own funeral, so to speak. You’ll bear with me.
I am no longer a teenager!
I just exited the problem years. Seven years ago I entered a tunnel – a dark and foreboding cave, full of rebellion, strife, predictable conflict, sharp words, sharp objects, dangerous people and opportunity after opportunity for mistake. Remember “don’t talk to strangers?” Well, I was the stranger...At least, that’s how it’s billed in the thousands of books, pamphlets and webpages that advertised themselves as parenting almanacs. With all the legality of a freshly minted social security number...maybe that is a bad analogy...with all the legality of eighteen, I just exited the teen years.
It’s been a harrowing experience. I’ve had criminal behavior (misdemeanors, mind you, why are we always thinking the felonious?), mental disorders, eating disorders, learning disorders, communication disorders, attitude disorders, attitude adjustments, teen culture, talk with parents...and that’s just the table of contents.
I feel as if I will wake up tomorrow, walk to the mirror and look at my all-grown-up body. I will be Tom Hanks after a visit with a carnival genie in Big. I will stare in wonder at the hair on my chest and giggle mischievously at my new hairy tummy arrow. How long has that been there? My voice will sound weirdly old and I will wonder how I know that the square of the length of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the lengths. Did Pythagoras teach me that himself? Or was it Hypotenuse, his angular older brother? I get the two confused...
Joking about the teenage years is a little like joking about indigestion. It’s an inherently nauseating topic that hits close to home for many people. Having the perfect teenage existence is analogous to having the perfect golf swing: it’s an enigma; you’ll never get there.
But I survived and, thanks to a well-developed ego, I can stand here and tell you I thrived. That’s right, Kaiser Permanente. I am the one irritating driver on the road who has never gotten a ticket who can laugh at all of you guys that have until one day I get pulled over and my entire self-image is shattered. I’m the A student who never had to study for his grades – wait...is this F’s speech? I’m a Hollywood starlet on the red carpet, satisfied with her life until she reads the gossip pages in the morning.
Well the morning is now, teen is done and the gossip pages are as salacious as always, but I am really happy with that red carpet. 13-19 was a great run, but I’m more than ready to get started on 20.
20. What a great number. It’s a semi-perfect number. Did you know this? Skipping 2 and adding the other divisors gives 20, hence 20 is a semiperfect number, and since it is not divisible by any of the smaller semiperfect numbers, it is a primitive semiperfect number. I’m not done. 20 is the number of proteinogenic amino acids that are encoded by the standard genetic code. One more? $20 is the threshold value of civil disputes above which the right to trial by jury is guaranteed. That’s the Seventh Amendment. I love college: All these useless facts that seem predesigned for sharing at a birthday party.
20 is the age at which Levites in the time of King David were allowed "to do the work for the service of the house of the Lord,” in the Temple in Jerusalem. In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, following the Babylonian captivity, it was Levites from the age of 20 upwards who were assigned "to oversee the work of the house of the LORD." Where am I? I’m at ready. You bet I’m at ready. What’s my 20? I’m at ready.
So the next time someone asks me if I’ve got the “score,” I’m just going to nod, Abraham Lincoln style. It may not be 4 score and seven, but score is what I’ve got.
I’m leaving that tunnel, exiting the red carpet and am ready to oversee the real work. Thanks.