Earlier this year, I confided in Mitch that the older I get the more confusing the world becomes to me. I doubt this feeling will ever lessen; instead of course it should grow stronger. In fact I hope it does, because it is not always an unpleasant feeling. At its most positive, it breeds in me a greater interest in the world, its people, and myself. Lessons already learned do not, unless through new experiences, go unlearned via this phenomenon. But new ones constantly and with more complexity present themselves. When I look at my incredible grandparents – one of whom is not even blood related to me, but could regardless not be a better grandfather if he tried – I understand their continued zest for life, despite the fact they’ve both indulged in much more of it than the rest of us. Life surprises us. Sometimes painfully; sometimes pleasurably; other times terribly mundanely. But it does. Apparently, right up until the day we die. And even, perhaps, in the very manner of our death.
This year has in some ways been my worst. My very willingness to remain alive dipped lower in this, the 29th year of my life, than it has before. I’ve at times felt betrayed, rejected, scorned, ridiculed, neglected, humiliated, misunderstood and, worst of all, ignored, this year, more palpably than in any other year preceding it. But, life surprises us, doesn’t it? Finally, I found my way back into full-time work and am now busy rebuilding that grudging but crucial part of my life from the ashes of a shattered professional dream. There’s also a beautiful, intelligent, humungous-hearted woman sitting at this table who, quite unexpectedly and only less than a couple of months before today, captured my battered but still strongly beating heart. And, as always, there’s my small but spectacular family. Whether spiritually, socially, politically, culturally, intellectually, or emotionally, I might be different from each of you in at least one way. But in every way, I love you all, and the conviction that you feel the same way toward me gives me strength.
I’ve thought, at times, that by the age of 30 I should somehow have more of an idea of what the future might hold for me than I did at 15, or 20, or 25. But while writing this speech I realised that that is an absurdity. Life is unpredictable. Every answer it gives us to every question we ask of it only leads to more questions. Even long before I gained the epiphany I shared with Mitch, I knew that I would die having not read some books, not travelled to some places, not surfed some waves; not smelled some flowers, so to speak. But the fact that I will always understand life less with each passing minute, hour, day and year gives me something to ever reach for that I never shall. Everything lies in between these two extremes of unavoidably obscure beginnings and endings. And first and foremost among them are you, the people seated with me today, whom I’m honoured to call my loved ones. You, above all else and others, bind me to this world, make me better appreciate its pleasures, and guard me from its pain. Thank you.