I watched a beaver swim up a narrow brook about 10 feet in front of me on Sunday while I ate a sandwich. Saw a small covey of young grouse scatter, and then freeze in place, shape-shifting into invisibility. Fell off a slippery fallen tree trunk and sank one arm elbow-deep in stinking swamp muck. Slept on my back in a small square of high grass where I could hear the chuckle of the brook rolling, and where I could feel the heat of the sun on my skin.
None of them are the kind of things that belong on a resume.
But maybe they should.
No one has ever asked me to speak to graduating high school or university students. I think I’d lose my mind if they did. But every year, somewhere on social media, someone coughs up a truly legendary speaker telling graduates what to do and how to do it, talks about the importance of everything from family time to hard work to making sure you drink enough water and maybe try to sleep eight hours a night.
I think I’d say something different than all of those approaches; actually, two things.
The first one is that you can never turn your back on luck — hard work may get you many places, but luck and timing have a huge role to play, and if you take all the credit for any progress you make, you’re lying to yourself. When luck shows its face, be ready.
The other one is, to my mind, more important.
We’re all different. Yes, I know. That’s not news.
What I’m saying is that you should embrace your strange — don’t ever let anyone take it away.
But what is news, perhaps, is that it’s not how you fit in that gives you value — it’s how you don’t fit in. What I’m saying is that you should embrace your strange — don’t ever let anyone take it away.
I’m always surprised by the way I’ll get struck by something simple, and it will hang with me all day long. Sometimes for far more than a day.
Monday morning at around 6:45, I was walking along the four-lane Prince Philip Parkway in St. John’s, the sun low but already warm on my back. There were few enough cars on the road that I heard the whirr of bike tires from behind me, and watched as a bicyclist passed me, his bike festooned with clear blue plastic bags of recyclables, looking for all the world like a bunch of huge balloons on bike wheels.
That’s fine — you can picture that image. I’m sure.
Then, the bicyclist turned and crossed the grass median, bumping down off the pavement into the grass, then back onto pavement, then off again. And each of those three bumps a distinct musical sound: somewhere in one of the bags, glass bottles rapping together.
Such a pure ring to it; clink-clink for each bump and each wheel.
A combination of sound and timing and chance and weather. He rode onto the bike path, and after those six clinks — ordered like the dots on a single die — they didn’t make another sound.
It is a peculiar thing to take note of, but the sound of it, the beat of it, made me smile then, and makes me smile now.
I get to see magic in simple things. Sometimes it helps. And I admit, it outs me as kind of a strange duck. But that’s OK.
Will your strange get you a job? No. Probably not. But a smile is a precious thing, especially if it comes unbidden and regularly.
It’s not even the right time of the year for a graduation, and you didn’t even have to graduate to get the message.
It’s just me, over here embracing my strange.
Russell Wangersky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @wangersky.
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