28 March 2007

Boot 'N Paddle - February 23, 2007

“Paris is one of the most beautiful places in all the world. Unfortunately, I was so homesick I couldn't appreciate its beauty.” Tyra Banks said that.

I think tangled up and twisted around in that quote is something we can all learn from, something that is so obvious in the mind of a celebrity, but so difficult for people like you and me to decipher. I’m going to reiterate what I think Tyra was trying to say in a personal anecdote.

The other day, I was working in the library next to an outwardly disgruntled student. He was squirming around in his chair and seemed to be having a pretty tough time hitting the right keys on the keyboard. His situation climaxed with a loud, “UGHH!” Then he swung around in his chair and told me he “is so over this school.”
I was pretty uncomfortable because he was talking to me even though we didn’t know each other, so I just told him, “me too.” But then I started thinking about a story my Grandma used to tell me, a story that I realized would help my neighbor. I turned to him and asked if he wouldn’t mind listening to a story, which I think made him uncomfortable, but he agreed nonetheless.

(The is a rough translation of the story that I told him.)

Kip took another bite. “I’m sick of eating fish,” he said.
“Huh?” Jeremy was puzzled. Sick of fish? A bear had never said, or thought, that before.
“Especially trout.” Kip pushed the half-eaten fish corpse into the river.
“Shh…come on…you don’t mean that…Kip? Kip, you don’t mean that.” Jeremy knew all about his best friend’s…odd personality, but he didn’t want the other bears to hear what he was saying.
“No! I’m serious! I’m sick of it, Jeremy! I’m sick of eating fish, I’m sick of sleeping in damp, dark caves, and I’m so sick of walking around outside when it’s raining. Jeremy! I’m sick and tired of being a bear!”
“Kip! Quiet” Jeremy slipped on a rock and fell into the river. He poked his head out of the water. “Are you crazy, Kip!? You can’t say things like that!”
“Why not, Jeremy? Huh? Why not?”
“Because there are certain things bears––“
Kip turned his back to Jeremy and the river and sauntered off.
Later that day, Jeremy decided to stop by Kip’s cave to apologize for what happened during lunch. After all, he didn’t want a little dispute to affect their friendship.
But when he entered Kip’s cave, there was no sign of Kip! All that was left was a note pinned to the cave wall. The writing was washed out and runny because cave walls are naturally moist, but Jeremy did make out, “…needed some time… job application…try something new…”
And with that, Kip was gone.

Over the next few months Jeremy heard from Kip a couple of times. He was living in Boulder, working for the Department of Transportation programming traffic lights. He was dating a real estate agent named Meadow (which to their annoyance was always a big joke at parties), and just bought a new Pontiac Sunfire. Kip seemed genuinely happy.
One day, Jeremy walked down to the river, just like he always did, to eat some breakfast. But this particular day was special. He wasn’t alone.
“KIP! You’re back!” Jeremy ran down to the river and tackled his friend into the water. “What are you doing back? I thought you had everything you ever wanted in Boulder?”
The two bears stared at each other, both dripping cold, glacial water.
“Jeremy, I came back because, this is where I belong. Because I’m a bear and I love that.” Then Jeremy and Kip hugged in a way only bears can. “Plus Meadow broke up with me…Let’s eat!”

By the time I finished my story, the disheartened student had left, as had most of the other people in the room. But there was still one student left, sitting in the corner, pretending not to listen. But I could tell. I could tell I gave him what Tyra gave me, a lens to look through that allows me to truly appreciate where I am.

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