i gave a speech

Last week at my birthday dinner, I made a speech.  I had decided to do so a few weeks ago  out of neither solemnity nor ceremony, but rather out of the purest form of vanity that binds your friends to humor you for a finite moment.   The speech was written over a few days,  through a few drafts (yes, the void left by law schools is great), and the ending was left open to extemporaneous expression.  By popular demand, here it is:

Twenty six. Twenty six. Twenty-six is not a fine age. It is bereft of societal milestones: freedom to drive or rent an automobile, freedom to purchase firearms, cigarettes, alcohol, pornography, registration for conscription in the armed forces. Twenty-six is an inelegant age, lacking even the distinction of being a prime number, or a square, or a cube. Twenty-six lies just past the peak of one’s on roaring twenties, signaling the inevitable descent into mortgages, compelled companionship, everyday chinos, and heaps and heaps of responsibility. And so, I think this time is worthy of a moment’s contemplation before we age any further.

If anything has dictated the tempo of my adult years, it has been fear of change. My old boss and mentor once advocated that I embrace change, not fear it. “Change is constancy, my boy,” he preached, “Change is a constancy.” Then he told us he was quitting the company and left us for greener pastures.

Change has ruled the past several years. Change in careers, change in romance, change in increasingly expensive apartments. Hmm. I suppose that is all. I’ll tell you what has not changed: an ever-present constellation of friends, fixed almost eternally in the sky. It is no stretch of the metaphor to say that they provide me guidance when I am lost, and light when all is dark.

These are friendships that have lasted through separation at high school, at college, those terminal points for most young friendships. They have lasted through long spans of time and geography. They have even survived when we moved and stayed on the west side.

Yet change, change– that locomotive of uncertainty and novelty– change is a-coming. Marriage arrives soon for the fortunate among us, and awaits the patient rest of us. Higher education in far away lands beckons yet more.  I am uncertain what changes or effects of these changes lie ahead.   I am even more uncertain what scant wisdom I have earned in my twenty-six years so far. However, I do know and cherish this: there is no greater sound on this earth than the sound of your friends’ laughter, joined in chorus by your own.

Thank you for being here, there, then, always, and forever.  Now enjoy this melted ice cream dessert.


  • mung Says:

    clap clap clap!

  • hag Says:

    you are so very pretty.

  • Bob the Chef Says:

    Even friends change, and friendships wax and wane with time. The constellation changes. If it doesn’t, then you’re not growing. You’ve slumped into a comfortable stagnation, a rotting pit, because you fear loneliness. Even you change, and as you change. Parmenides once said you cannot step in the same river twice. Nay! You cannot step in the same river once!

    If these words cause you some anguish, good! It means you’ve attached to something, but need to break free. And you know what that something is? It isn’t even the thing you think you’re attached to (you can’t attach to real things), but rather the idea. And ideas are not reality.

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