This is an edit on a speech I gave for the Toastmasters International Speech contest early in 2012.  I came in second for the Area contest.

Growing up can be a painful event in the world we live in.  We deal with so many expectations that are thrust upon us as children.  “Don’t do this.”  “Don’t say that.”  “Be what we want you to be.”

I have to say I struggled for so many years because many of the things expected of me did not jive with how my mind processed the world.  It was torture sometimes, both literally and figuratively.  Especially when I was young.  Now, years later I’ve been looking backwards to every growing pain I experienced with a sense of pride that I’ve overcame them, but something still seemed amiss.  And it took my eldest son’s personality to show me what I almost lost.  Something that I should provide him the opportunity to preserve at all costs.

I come from a long line of jesters.  It’s in my blood.  Silliness and imagination are my stock in trade.  I was meant to be an entertainer.  My youngest memories included being the class clown in Kindergarten – making up incredibly detailed and ridiculous stories to keep my classmates in stitches.  I was a walking foley machine, creating detailed sound effects.  I had found a niche that I excelled in.  And then the other shoe dropped.

Mrs. Norton, There’s something wrong with your son.

 Timmy, stop doing that, it’s annoying. 

With these not-so-subtle cues that what I was doing didn’t fit in, I lost my confidence.  Oh, I continued to be silly, but my peers seemed to sense that it was half-hearted and they pounced upon me like a cat on a young bird that fell out it’s nest.  My perception of the world was strained.  So, in a need for self-preservation I broke my world in two.  Silliness was meant for the stage, but off of the stage I became withdrawn and quiet.  This continued for many years until I found new inspiration.

My eldest son, from the youngest age found love in wearing his socks mix-matched.  Different flashy colours too, so they stood out.  You can really pick this kid out in the park.  He loves to be silly, makes all kinds of sound effects and he delights in telling stories.  Sound familiar?  Yes, my son is a jester too.  But because of what I went through, my knee-jerk reaction was to get him to stop.  You see, I remember what the world did to me, and I wanted to shield him from it.  Then one day I did what nobody did for me.  I listened to him.  I really, really listened to him.  It was just him and I in the car, me driving along and him without a care in the world singing away to a tune of his own devices.  It suddenly clicked for me, and I realized just how smart he really is.  Surely a lot smarter than I was.  Smart enough to survive with his jester-personality intact.  So, I’ve decided to try to give him the guidance I never had…and that is to be how and who he wants to be.  To embrace how he sees the world and to strengthen it with his own passion and resolve.  To be ready if I stray from my path to look me in the eye and tell me “The world needs to laugh with you, not mourn who you should have been”

Society seems to be on a direct, unyielding, careening path, with a conformed set of rules and leaders guiding us there.  I’ve thought about it a lot and that path doesn’t always feel right.  So, perhaps what we need is less leaders and more jesters to steer us down a more adventurous and exciting road of enlightenment.   Certainly my son would be amongst those to help keep the world laughing, bright multi-hued coloured socks acting like a beacon in the darkness.  And where will I be, you ask?  Well, I may not have the flashy colours…yet…but give me time and I’ll find my way back to the royal court to entertain and delight all with silliness.