Sometimes I'm amazed at how much I've changed this past decade. I often wonder what it would be like to meet myself from 10 years ago for a cup of coffee. What would we talk about? How would we reconcile our differences? Would we argue?
I know there's at least one thing we would disagree on. If I asked my younger self to consider art as a profession, I would have emphatically said no...
I saw him in the woods yesterday. He was tall and carried a powerful bow, a well crafted blade, and various survival things. I didn't bring my supplies because I know my way around these woods; I got this. I tried to talk to him as I assumed we had something in common. Just two fellow hunters out here hunting tigerbeetles (or whatever he calls them). When I last saw him he was releasing a steady shot into the dark forest. Sounded like it hit something. I didn't see because I was busy bagging a kill of my own. I kinda got turned around here, so I'm just going to kickback and figure things out tomorrow. I'm sure he'll be back around to point me in the right direction.Sometimes I catch myself judging someone's opinion based on their age. The truth is, I have this nagging idea that people don't have much to say unless they've got some experience. And theoretical knowledge does not equal experience (i.e. you can not master kung fu just by watching movies). Though this ideology may be wrong on some level, it's clear to me I think this way because I was such an ignorant moron 10 years ago. Life had a different taste back then, and the taste can sour once you discover what it is.
It's been a month that I've been in the woods out on my own. I've seen the man several times. He always seems to just come in and handle his hunting with ease. Which is frustrating when you're hungry. I spend most of my days drinking dew from leaves and eating small bugs and flowers. Some of them make me sick; I had no idea. If I saw someone out here I would tell them to watch out for that stuff. Don't just leave people out here to get sick. Sometimes I think the man is a jerk.The past decade of my life is rife with mistakes, bad calls, embarrassing moments, hard knocks, hard knocks, and more hard knocks. I've been apart of failing businesses, had terrible bosses, worked long hours (12-20 a day 5-14 days in a row) for very little pay, been pressured, conned, and cheated, all the while thinking my talents were just in line waiting to be discovered. The world would come to me at some point, right? This was my destiny.
One year ago my life changed when I saw the man in the woods. I didn't realize he had a few tricks I didn't know about. I followed him and watched him start a fire with some rocks. I mean, I probably would have come up with the same thing if I wasn't so distracted by his presence. Well, fires make for better nights, so I guess I can be thankful for that. He still doesn't help me at all. I'm starting to hate this guy. I've hunted in these woods, like, all my life, but for some reason I've had the hardest time snagging a big catch this last year. Is it bad luck? What kind of bow does he have? I bet that's my problem.I remember thinking I would do better in the culinary industry because there was no money in art. Little did I know that culinary was the one short on cash. Why I thought money was a calculable concept for me, I don't know. I had no idea how much money was where. Things change. Industries change. My only real reliable employment was to think about myself as my own company. Do something I love and make it my service. Learn to treat my service as a product, my interactions as customer relations, and learn to make it work whatever I do. Learn to survive.
It took six months for my leg to heal. If I had not seen the man use the honey-tree sap to heal his wounds I might have succumb to my injuries. Five years ago I was too young and foolish, there's no doubt I would have died out here.Could it be that my young self had this all wrong? What if I didn't know what I was talking about? What if my talents only get me half way there? At some point things changed for me. I started to understand the depth of my inadequacies. I started to get a better view of what I needed to change in my life.
I stole the bow and some arrows from the man when he was sleeping and took my new weapon to the dark woods. I could not imagine the horrors that lurk there. A tigerbeetle, as large as a house, charged me from the shadows. I tried to pull back the bowstring but I was too weak to do so. The flimsy shot landed a lucky blow and pierced between the body segments, but not deep enough to finish the job. The monster grabbed my leg and snapped it like a twig as I thrusted my dull hunting knife into its head until it failed to move.
I got the meat back to camp with great effort and pain. I braced my leg and fell asleep.
The man walked through my camp a few days later. He carried a new bow with him. It was much nicer than the one I stole. It seemed to have a magical aura with shiny obsidian arrows. The man is toying with me.
I found the trail that the man likes to use and knelt there. My legs trembled as I waited for his approach. Clutching my stolen bow to my chest, I realized the error of my ways these past seven years. It's time to set things straight.I needed some humility. I needed to put down my ego. How could I ever learn if I knew everything already? Low and behold that was the attitude the universe was pushing back on. I'm much happier now, realizing that. It's a load off not having to keep up the facade. Now it's time to learn. To push myself to be better. I look forward to challenge now. It makes me stronger.
The man stopped in front of me. I almost didn't notice with his feather-like footsteps. I told him "This is yours. I'd like to give it back." I lifted the bow to the man but he just stood there and gazed at me. He put his hand on the bow and pushed it back, then he continued on the path. I stood up and yelled at him, "Please!" He stopped in his tracks. "I don't know how to use this!"
A broken tree branch alerted the man to his prey. He knelt down and perked up his ears. As his instincts kicked in, he slowly started to make his way in the direction of the noise. He sneaked about 10 feet before stopping to look back to me. I stood there broken and on the verge of tears. Pointing to me he signaled to walk quietly.
We hunted together that day. I hunted... for the first time.
I saw him in the woods yesterday. A young boy with no wits about him. He was busy talking like a big man and eating poisonous flowers. I wanted to say something, but he just kept yammering on about how great he is... He'll learn.My young self had it right all along. I needed turmoil and strife. I needed to make mistakes. It made me the man I am. Which leads me to conclude that if I met myself "from 10 years ago" for coffee, I wouldn't say a thing. I would not warn him, help him, or ask him to change. He needs this.
I went to tell the man about the young boy I saw. He has since moved from the woods to a house he built on the waterfall cliffs. He makes a great living now selling enchanted bows and arrows. The craftsmanship is remarkable. I hope to learn from him one day how he does it, but he's taught me so much already.
While starting to show me how to fix the wrapping on my grip, he told me something I will never forget, "If you happen to lose this bow one day, I would be happy to replace it for you."
I told the man thank you as I pulled off the wrap from the grip and revealed the naked wood below. To my surprise I found an inscription there that said: I stole this from the man before me
Because at this point in my life, I would not benefit, grow from, nor make sense of the difficulties that came before if I did not respect my life as a series of lessons and hardships to learn from and overcome.
I still have a long way to travel, but I was lost until the day I discovered to appreciate the life I've had so far. The life that led my journey here.
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
― Isaac Newton, The Correspondence Of Isaac Newton
― Isaac Newton, The Correspondence Of Isaac Newton