April 14, 2014

Ironically Speechless

I never really wanted to be one of those people who writes long sentimental goodbye notes when some segment of their life ends.

But here I am.

And here we are.

And look what I’m doing.

I did five years of speech and debate. During those five years I competed in maybe twenty-five or so tournaments, including tiny local qualifiers and huge national invitational deals. Which means I told stories to people I’d never seen before in my life, participated in numerous forty-five minute long arguments about philosophy and government, gave impromptu ramblings on modern culture, and played more characters than I can count.

And the whole speech and debate part of speech and debate, that was fun and cool and I’m glad I did it. I love telling stories. And the skills I learned were worth the effort.

But I liked the people more. The people were fantastic. I met my best friends in speech and debate. And the memories that I’m holding on to from tournaments – I don’t think a single one of them involves actually giving a speech.

So the speech thing is over. But the people are still here.

And the memories. The memories take place in classrooms and hotel rooms and crowded rooms and empty rooms and hills as far away from rooms as I could get.

And in those rooms there were wonderful people. Wonderful people talking and laughing and occasionally crying, and all I really cared about was that they were there and I was there and we were talking and laughing and occasionally crying together and possibly doing some speeches in between.

There were late nights and early mornings and sunny days and stormy afternoons. And the occasional tornado. There was much time spent in busy rooms, talking to countless people and smiling and asking "what speeches are you doing." There was even more time spent hanging out with good friends, friends who you could ask questions deeper than "what speeches are you doing." And there was time spent walking in lonely halls, asking God to, if nothing else, at least let me speak something true when it was time to speak. I was always scared I would say something I didn't believe, or shouldn't believe. 

And then there are thousands of other memories spilling over each other in some kind of stream of consciousness collage or constellation like the stars in a night sky and the seas of nameless faces and faceless names and people hugging, people running, people flirting, people winning, people just existing and being and huddling together to hide from the dark creeping in and knowing they're loved and knowing they're sheltered from shadows and demons. Beautiful eyes and broken souls and a waterfall of memories cascading down, ever down to bathe all that you've known in these years full of stupid fears and happy tears and one-clap cheers and far-off faces coming near. Maybe I'm leaving too much of my being behind but for everything lost there's something to find. We have been young and we have been free but later on we may have to bleed and hopefully these years together will help us be able to bleed as brothers in a fading world where we stand on sacred ground with mindless minds creeping around. You can pierce infinity with a whisper but all you get back is an echo and so you have to believe the ground will hold strong when all else crumbles and you have to believe what you've known all along.

I said stream-of-consciousness collage, right?

And now I realize that speech is just one part of what I'm thinking about here. It's not just speech that's ending - in a year or so I will probably be going to college, probably away from the people I've known all my life, and speech ending has made me start to experience that loss in a tangible way. Apparently these are more than just my thoughts about speech ending. I guess they're kind of my thoughts about everything. 

I do understand that if these years had lasted forever, they would not be nearly as beautiful as they were. I remember watching one of the better sunsets I've seen when I was in Colorado for a tournament. I think that the fleeting nature of a sunset is what makes it beautiful. And that’s how speech was, and how life is in general.   

And yeah, there was embarrassment and sickness and nervous sweat and disappointment. But there were always people there to get me through it.

I wanted to try to describe these people, and how endlessly fantastic and complex they are, and how we have experienced happiness and sadness and all kinds of ridiculous emotions. And how we have done stupid crazy things together, and gone to other states together, and stayed up all night talking and laughing together. And how we have all supported each other and relied on each other. I wanted to describe it.

And so I find it kind of ironic

That after spending five beautiful years doing speech,

I am at a loss for words.