My new friends, Holly and Chris, a young couple traveling in Florida during a college break attempting to avoid the northern cold spells, happened in, late at night, to the campsite beside me at Huguenot Memorial County Park in Jacksonville last week. My little dog, Minna, and I, were returning from our evening walk before bedtime—we offered a quick hello and welcome—then scooted off to bed.
Holly is a Psychology major at school and Chris is on a one semester break hoping to find his life path. Chris has multiple creative talents. The art work pictured above came from his sketchbook. He was working on it when we first chatted.
The next morning I noticed him hard at work, seated at his picnic table intensely concentrating on his large book. I went about my camp chores making breakfast for Minna and myself. Boiling some water for tea, pouring a steaming cup, when I thought: that young student hasn’t the good sense to make himself a hot something…. or maybe he hasn’t brought along anything to make…. or perhaps he is waiting for his companion to arise. Soon, on impulse, I popped over and handed him a cuppa tea saying he looked like he could use it. He smiled widely in surprise, graciously thanking me as I backed away and went back to my chores.
Later I observed Holly had joined Chris at the table so I brought her some tea as well. She was very pretty for a person who just crawled out of a tent, her youth bubbling out of her demeanor and her kindness was evident in a lovely smile. We chatted for a moment or two then I went back to minding my own business. In a little while the two of them came over to return the cups. We complimented the sky, the shorebirds and the gentle soft breeze through the palms. They asked what I knew about the campground, having come in after dark. I told them a few of the quick highlights especially of the view from the high dunes at the far end of the point. Cautioned them about the incredible amount of broken glass in the dunes tossed by uncaring beer drinkers and the dead or dying jelly fish at the water’s edge.
I then asked, “Do you folks like oatmeal? “Oh yes!” they chimed in unison.
“Done.” said I as I added more oatmeal, raisins, cinnamon and chopped apples to my pot on the built-in two burner gas stove in Luciee’s tailgate kitchenette. “Sit, it will be ready momentarily.”
So began our morning which embraced a two, or maybe three, hour conversation; the two of them starting their lives and I starting my trip. Amazingly we had much in common; they being uncertain about what the future might bring, much as I felt myself. They were not worried as much as perplexed by the enormity of life’s decisions. Trying their best to make sound judgments and wise use of their time. Holly has not yet decided what she will do with her degree; she is multi-lingual and hopes to apply that in her work, while Chris is uncertain of which way to focus his many creative skills. He showed me his sketch book and I was very impressed. He also plays some really serious guitar.
One thing was certain they both seemed driven to make a meaningful contribution to the world with all its ills, to help make it a better place. So there we were, the older traveler with the younger travelers, serendipitously following the omens of life as they spontaneously occur minute by hour by day after day. We spoke of life’s uncertainty in those few hours; there was a kinship I felt in our simultaneous journeys. It seemed to me we were all three on the same playing field though, surprisingly as I am much older than either of them, but there seemed to be no age barrier. It was very refreshing. Their good sense and lively energy was inspiring. They held no great prejudices about anything or anyone but seemed open to ideas and willing to blend their experiences with those of other folks in an effort to find a good path. To find success in following our dreams.
To paraphrase Paulo Coelbo outlined in The Alchemist:
“We all need to be aware of our personal calling. What is a personal calling? It is God’s blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don’t all have the courage to follow our dream.
“We are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible.
“If we have the courage to disinter our dream, we are then faced by the second obstacle: love. We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream.
“I ask myself: are defeats necessary?
“Well, necessary or not, they happen. When we first begin fighting for our dream, we have no experience and make mistakes. The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.
“So, why is it so important to live our personal calling if we are only going to suffer more than other people?
“Because, once we have overcome the defeats—and we always do—we are filled by a greater sense of euphoria and confidence. In the silence of our hearts, we know that we are proving ourselves worthy of the miracle of life.
“Having disinterred our dream, having used the power of love to nurture it and spent many years living with the scars, we suddenly notice what we always wanted is there,waiting for us, perhaps the very next day. Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we have fought all our lives.
“Oscar Wilde said: “Each man kills the thing he loves.” And it’s true. The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of an ordinary person with guilt. We look around at all those who have failed to get what they want and feel that we do not deserve to get what we want either. We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, all the suffering we endured, all the things we had to give up in order to get this far. I have known a lot of people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp, went on to commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reached their goal—when it was only a step away.”
Later in the day, after dark, Chris and Holly returned from their daylight adventures and sat by my campfire: she playing the bongo drum and he his guitar as the the flames rose and sparkles flew into the night I could see in them my renewed hope for the future. Smart young people with concerns about life’s journey, willing to meet the future head on. Hoping to discover in the practical effort of life the positive contributions they can make to the human condition. Not a bad formula for young folks and old.