Looking for the teacher
I sent a message on a social media platform that didn’t exist in 2000, to someone I didn’t know for more that a couple of hours. I reached out to him because I wanted to use his words with permission. I remembered his name hoping it would land in the correct in box. The message went like this:
Good morning from the prairies. It was the summer of 2000. I don’t know how many people have your name, so this may not be you but it if is you, you were hitchhiking outside of Jasper when I picked you up and you were traveling alone. No dog. Just you. You said you had a brother or somebody you were meeting up with…? Any how it’s weird what our brains remember. You taught me two lessons.
Lesson number one: Pace
I was driving along the curvy mountain roads when another car in front of me slowed right down. I got grumpy and then apologized for my impatience. You said “it’s not about being in a hurry but about going the pace you want” Thank you Obi Wan!! Seriously great lesson. I think of that often when I’m held back or just want to slow right down and do it my way.
Lesson number two: Influences
I asked you who had the greatest influence on you. You (or the person I picked up 🙂) said your parents, for obvious reasons, had a great impact on who you are but there was a group of friends who you’d go to summer camp with. These guys ultimately had a huge impact. At camp you became your true self or maybe a self that you could create without judgement. A self you wished you could be with others.
That lesson struck me because that’s how I feel about traveling. I show up somewhere and no one knows me. I can really create any history about myself. No one knows my heart aches or how big my baggage is. No one knows if I was troubled or insecure. No one knows the difference either way. There is power in building and creating oneself. Traveling offers that magic. It’s an important magic for me that showed me so many times over that I didn’t have to identify as a label someone else imposed on me. So there you have it. The two lessons. Thank you—if this was indeed you. If not, then some other dude named Graeme shared some pretty cool lessons.
The hitchhiker from 2000 replied.
His reply was moving. He wrote:
A timely message from a past self. It’s funny how things seem to work themselves out in their own time. Life seems to have incrementally gotten busier and busier for me with family and a business. Somewhere along the way, I started letting outside pressures set the pace. So thanks to you for reminding me of something I felt a lifetime ago. I do believe it was me that hitched that ride. My brother still lives in Banff. He’s a father now too. Those friends from summer camp are still among my closest. We’ve witnessed each other invent and reinvent ourselves through the years as friends, travelers, husbands, fathers, and sons. We’ve stood for each other at weddings and funerals, highs and lows. I count myself lucky to still belong to such a group. We get together at that camp every spring with our young families and it’s amazing to see the boys inside the men: the self reincarnated into a new role and time. I hope that being able to connect the old with the new means we’re being true and on the right track. I’m glad you reached out, it’s nice to reflect. I hope this message finds you well.
Although I felt the lessons Graeme shared with me were relevant to writing: pace and influence I think the biggest take away for me as a writer is that we are offered teachers in all sorts of places, characters we don’t forget for one reason or another. This again connects to travel as much as it does to staying put. Connecting with people and padding my experience with the thoughtful words of this hitchhiker (or whoever) makes life a whole lot fuller.
Graeme gave me permission to share this story and I’m glad I can. I’m glad I’ve traveled and met him and countless others. I’m glad that I have friendships that have lasted the test of time. I am glad that I am always open to learning for all the teachers who present themselves to me.
*Originally posted August 14, 2017