The last post I included the first life story I created. As I stated before, none of us have a life story. We have to create them… and there is a potential for infinite stories based on our experiences, thoughts, motivations, interconnections with others and the world, and meanings we come from the interpretation of these things. Some such stories are more important than others. Some may even be described as formational— key to how we view life, and live our lives. He is another one. It is not as old as the one I shared previously. This one only goes back to the time I was 9 or 10. Even then it was just an occurrence. Only gradually was it distilled into a formational story.
I originally shared this story on the webpage back in 2015, as well as in a book that I never formally published. If it sounds a bit trite… you are probably right. But it has been important to me even if not to others. That is the way stories tend to be.
When I was young, my father and Mr. Dyer were Sunday School teachers at our church. The two of them took several of us boys, students in their classes, camping. We set up tents on some state land a mile (more or less) from Arkwright Falls. We had a great time hanging around the campfire roasting marshmallows, swatting mosquitoes, and doing other campish things. We slept, tightly packed, in our little tents. The night was cool, but not too cold. In the morning, we ate our Spartan breakfast. Learning how to make toast using a stick and a fire was interesting. Then we prepared for our hike.
Arkwright Falls is not the largest falls around. Fifty miles away is Niagara Falls, which is many times larger. But there are no people at Arkwright Falls– just river, forest, and falls. The Falls are on no map that I have seen. People near it know where it is. Sometimes the serenity and peace are more important than what are the biggest and the “best.” We had a great hike. We goofed around, as kids are prone to do. Although out in the wilds, the dirt path there was smooth and straight.
The water sure was ice cold, but the day was hot and bright. So it felt great!! We stayed and swam and splashed in the pool at the foot of the falls. In movies I have seen, people seem to be compelled to go to the top of the falls and jump off into the pool below. But since there was no movie being done there that day, we did not do anything particularly death-defying. Besides, I doubt my dad would have let us.
One can only appreciate a waterfall, large or small, for so long. Eventually, it was time to start going back to our campsite to pack for home. We were all soaked now. Our canvas top sneakers “squished” as our wet feet “squooshed” in them, sockless.
Some of us started walking and jogging faster than the rest and in a friendly sort of way we became a bit competitive. Competitive may be the wrong word, but gradually I came to the conclusion that I would win (who knows what?) if I made it to the campsite first. So I started moving faster and faster. Soon I was jogging along at a pretty good pace. It became apparent that the return trip would not be as fun as the trip over. The sun was high now in the heat of the day and the sweat generated from running soon attracted many happy little bugs of the forest. I also was not one who particularly enjoyed running. Years later, two years on High School track only further clarified my general dislike of running.
Weary, hot, and buggy I arrived at the campsite first. I had won. Looking back I discovered that there was no one else racing. I had raced myself while everyone else was having a merry stroll along the path. Worse, I discovered a problem with running sockless in wet canvas-top sneakers. My ankles were heavily abraded and I was bleeding. Eventually, everyone else came along happy and relaxed. We packed up and left.
Yes, I know. This was one of the most boring stories ever, right? But for me it was not boring at all. It was one of those life-lesson moments. I gave the story plot and meaning, and that meaning is still with me today.
- Success is not always being first
- Success is not always “winning” (however you define winning)
- Sometimes success is in the journey