The life of a turtle is ordinary in extraordinary ways. They eat from the land, hibernate in their houses if they don't like the outside temperature or their neighbors, have young and hope vultures don't harm them. They breathe, travel, swim and dig, none of it possible unless they come out of their shells.
I have two confessions.
One, I watched a really bad Miley Cyrus movie a few weeks ago. I can't recall the title and her acting made my one attempt as Becky Sawyer's best friend in a fifth grade play look like Hamlet, but I remember her vigilance at protecting a nest of sea turtles until they hatched and made it to the sea. It was a way for the screenwriter to show us her character's true nature, because she was so over-the-top cringe-worthy most of the film. The odds of sea turtles reaching water is long. Something like ninety percent die or are killed before their journey to the surf is complete. They take a risk to reap the reward of a full life.
Two, I watched ten minutes of the Nate Berkus show today. Dr. Ruth Westheimer talked about sex and redecorating and life. Weighty topics for two segments, right? Nate had redecorated her living space and left a special place for all the turtle trinkets people had given her over the years. I vaguely remembered hearing about her commencement address a few years back, something to do with turtles. She reminded us about those sea turtles, the risks they take, the message for us all. I wanted to know more. I was ready to hear that kind of message today.
Here's an excerpt from her commencement speech to Trinity College University's Class of 2004:
My favorite animal is the turtle. The reason is that in order for the turtle to move, it has to stick its neck out. There are going to be times in your life when you’re going to have to stick your neck out. There will be challenges and instead of hiding in a shell, you have to go out and meet them. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Jewish word chutzpah, but it’s a word you should familiarize yourself with. To live life at its fullest you have to have the chutzpah to accept challenges. You don’t need nerves of steel. I’m not saying that sometimes you won’t be shaking in your boots after accepting some major challenge. But you can’t let that stop you. It really is better to fail than not to try, because if you never try, you’ll never succeed, and as bad as failure feels, success feels so much better.
She is a woman with eighty-four years of wisdom behind her. From humble and oppressed beginnings, she embraced life's challenges, stuck her neck out and found success. We do her a disservice to associate her exclusively with sex jokes.
And the turtles? They may hold the secret to a well-lived life.
Stick your neck out today. Try something new. Move. Dig deep. Live.
Have a great weekend, everyone!