I was at a Chinese restaurant a few weeks ago, and my fortune cookie said: “You are talented in many ways.” I don’t really think of myself as talented in any way, so my cookie had me wondering about my talents or lack thereof. In our feel-good society, where everyone gets a trophy just for showing up, I’m sure I could make a list of things that could qualify as talents. But are they really? I believe for something to be a talent, you have to be able to win at it or demonstrate this skill in a way that serves some sort of purpose—like a special ability, right?
Then again, beauty pageants have sections where baton twirling, tap dancing and harp playing are all considered talents. Although these things don’t really achieve anything, and I would classify them more as artistic expressions, technically they count as talents. I should know a little about this, as a former beauty queen myself. That’s right, I was the undisputed pre-teen beauty queen of Pennsylvania. Miss Sunburst, to be specific.

It was pretty stiff competition between me and the one other contestant, but I managed to pull through with the crown and a trophy six inches taller than me. I participated in all of the fashion events, like “Sportswear,” “Western Wear,” “Swimwear” and “Cocktail.” Was it appropriate for an 11-year-old to be modeling cocktail dresses? Shouldn’t it have been called “Juice Box”?

Anyway, you may have noticed that I have not mentioned my talent. And that is because I did not have one. I think I was the only contestant in the entire multi-age event that didn’t. What were my parents trying to say? They couldn’t think of anything that I was good at doing? No wonder here I am, years later, reading fortune cookies and looking into my shallow Chinese teacup filled with teardrops for answers.

That’s right, I was the undisputed pre-teen beauty queen of Pennsylvania. Miss Sunburst, to be specific.

It just so happens that this New Year’s Eve, for the first time in about 17 years, I will be back home in Tempe for the celebration. It’s perfect timing because the gathering I will be at features a talent show, and participation is mandatory. This is no Miss Sunburst pageant, so I can’t just walk around in a sports skirt, casually swinging a tennis racket. The talent portion of this party is a must, and I am ready to bring my a-game. Obviously my fortune cookie was onto something by reminding me that I do have many talents. Maybe I just need to redefine what exactly a talent is. Maybe anything I am better at than the other people in a nearby proximity is a talent.

I know that I am better at lying down than most people my age. I am also good at reading and walking at the same time. However, I don’t think these talents have the quality it will take to win. When I think of showmanship my brain naturally leads me to one place—magic. The one magic trick I know involves someone handing me a crayon with my eyes closed. I subtly dig my nail into the tip and then, after I hand the crayon back, sneak a peek at my nail and tell everyone what color the crayon was. This really amazed my friend’s five-year-old daughter, but fell flat with my eight-year-old nephew. Of course, eight-year-olds have a reputation for being know-it-alls, so screw him.

Luckily, another talent that I have is Internet surfing, especially when I should be working on something else. With a lot of online schoolwork coming up and some solid surfing skills, I’m sure I will be able to discover a few impressive magic tricks, hopefully that involve low-level fireworks and maybe an apparition of someone’s dead relative. My plan is to perform exactly at midnight and make the ushering in of 2016 one of my tricks. Kind of like time travel.

I’ve always wanted to be a magician and always asked for magic kits for Christmas. Once I realized that practice was involved, my enchantment with magic dwindled. This is where I need money, so I can buy my magical talents. Like one of those special boxes that looks like I am cutting off people’s limbs or making them disappear. My fancy cape and sparkly top hat will mean nothing if I can’t saw someone in half! What about rabbits and doves? I will definitely need some of them to win. Fortunately, I have a big paper due tonight, so this will give me a lot of opportunity to procrastinate and further develop my magic talents.

I’m also thinking that I’ll need to include some magic spells in my show. I will put a spell on everyone to have a Happy New Year. Then anyone who does have a good 2016 can thank me for my spell-casting talent. Who knows how this will go, but by the time you read this, we will all have crossed over into 2016 and hopefully I will be wearing the talent crown. Abracadabra!