When I was four years old, I climbed a ten foot tall slide, a six foot
wide board, at the back of our local mall. My father, then a marine biologist
in our town, stood at the bottom pushing me to the top. I had been up that
slide dozens of times, and I wasn’t frightened of it anymore. But in that
moment I realized I had no idea how to face the world. I was like a deer
caught on the high wire.
So here I am, twenty-seven years old and looking down at the world. And as
I stare at mountains, valleys, and water, I realize that the idea of standing
on the edge of things is almost as terrifying as doing so.
I can almost see the story of people like the old woman in the Tepee Tonka
park. I imagine her being up there, looking down, watching, watching, and
waiting for her moment, then running as fast as she can.
I can think of a few people, too: the one in my office this morning. He is
at forty thousand feet, which is when it’s safe to fly a plane, but the fact
is he is forty thousand feet up right now. His job is to watch the flight
controls to make sure they’re not malfunctioning. The fact is, that control
panel will malfunction every time he opens the door in the next four minutes.
So what do I do?
Well, the other good thing about being in a high place is that I can see so
many people walking up that side of it to get to the edge I have a pretty good
idea what they will do. I’m pretty sure there’ll be a lot of running.
I can envision a bunch of my friends, dressed in their business suits, the
horses and stables at the edge of the high ground. Some people will walk
there, some will run. Some will use their horses to propel themselves up
that side of the mountain. Others will use their horses to pull a car, or a
I’ll probably be up on the edge of that side of the mountain, too. I’ll be
thinking of my friends and wondering if I should join them. Or how about my
wife, walking up that side of the mountain with a big basket filled with
veggies and fruits. She’ll be thinking about a couple of kids, who are
probably walking up to ask permission to play in their swings that stand at
the edge of that side of the mountain.
There are a lot of possibilities, isn’t there? I imagine myself on the side
of that mountain, with all the possibilities that that side of it holds.
I imagine myself walking up the other side, maybe to get a view of the ocean,
or maybe to work harder on my business, or even just to see the sights
There’s a chance I’ll wind up in the water, on the edge of a river or canyon.
I’m sure there are all sorts of water adventures waiting for me or I’m sure
there will be a lot of life threatening adventures.
I’ll never be the same.
So maybe one of my best lessons is not to get too high and not to go too far
I think about the old man in Tepee Tonka Park. He was probably a good man
and he worked hard to make his life better. He probably had a good family.
Even though I don’t understand everything about him, I know he was a good
person and he probably loved his wife and his kids.
I’m not going to do anything to hurt anyone else. I don’t know enough about
any of these people to do anything to hurt them.
I know I’ll get hurt. I don’t know when, but I know I will. But if I don’t
get hurt today, I hope I will next week, or the one after that.
I hope I won’t get hurt today, but I know I will.
I hope I won’t get hurt next week, but I know I will.
I hope I won’t get hurt the week after that, but I know I will.
And even I know that there are going to be days when it gets rough and I’m
going to get hurt. We all know that. It’s called life: we all face it and we
all find out what we’re made of.
My point in all this is that we can’t control everything that happens to
us. All we can do is make the best of how we’re living. That’s all I have
to do. I have no control over any of it.
And there’s plenty that I love about it.
I’m glad that I had the courage to climb that slide. I’m glad I had the
courage to leave the good life I was living and go on that big trip. I’m
grateful to have a job where I have an opportunity to do what I love–which
is make people smarter. I am never going to get better at making people
smarter. I’ve tried it, and I’ve failed, but I have not tried yet again.
I’m grateful to be in a place in life where I have enough money to do what
I have to do. I’m grateful that I have found a way to spend as much time as
I want with my son. I’m grateful for my family.
I’m grateful, in a world that’s made of so many choices, for one choice.
And that is one. I am glad to be alive, glad to be alive, glad to be