As a kid, I wanted adventure. Nothing seemed more boring than gardening. As I grew older, there were many exciting things out there. Concerts, clubs, and time with the friends. Along with the fast times came the fast and flashy meals at the restaurants and diners. I did not have to cook and it came straight to me. All it took was my money. Easy!
My Friend, Don
Don was not your normal kid. He was raised in a family of dysfunction and mental illness. He suffered from social issues and his face carried a scar that probably alienated him more from the cooler kids.
Don dropped out of school. He worked at a store that rented things to people who were down on their luck. People for the most part probably would never give Don a second glance.
Juke Box Hero
When Don was around 16, he bought a simple guitar. I had a guitar too. I was even in a band and playing the guitar came naturally to me.
“You have such a good sense of timing!”, my teacher told me.
I picked up the guitar and fiddled with it from time to time. Don played for hours. Sometimes for many hours. Many, many, many hours.
Soon Don was going to guitar lessons and I stopped going. He was my source of music. Don would go and learn the songs and then come home and practice. Once he got the songs down he would show the songs to me. I mean, I picked them up quickly so why bother to take lessons.
“Don, I am sorry man…”
The guitar teacher looked forlorn.
“I mean, we just jam when you come in. I have nothing left to teach you.”
So Don, the outcast, would come home after school and put on a concert in his bedroom to an audience of zero. Sometimes 1 if I came over. I would watch in awe because his playing was far beyond what I found to be in my skill range. To be honest, Don was just as good on the guitar as the better guitar players that one can see at a concert.
The winds were relentless and we all sat in the surf shop watching videos in plastic chairs. It was freezing too.
“I think we should go out”.
“Out? Like out? Out there?”
Our little prodigy was trying to coax us out of our warm chairs to a sea of misery.
Finally, two of us caved and we suited up. We ran across the street and the freezing cold asphalt caused every pebble to feel like something far sharper.
When we reached the beach, my eyes strained to make out the lineup through the rain that was hitting my face. The wind whipped down the deserted beach.
“What am I doing?”, I thought as I began to jump over the first few bouncing walls of water.
After an hour, I came in only to see the kid take off and pull a few sharp turns on the confused wave face. I ran back across the street and dried off. Forty minutes later he returned and gave us a rundown on his better moments.
I had just caught a wave and was paddling out when I saw David catch a right. He was coming fast towards me so I picked up the pace as to not mess up his ride. Then Dave launched his board into the air and started to rotate. His board landed tail first and Dave squatted down and began to ride backwards towards me. Then his fins engaged and he spun around.
“What was that!”, I yelled to a laughing David.
On the beach, someone told me that Dave is going to make it big.
We all have known someone who is talented in some way. A great artist, musician, athlete. Yet many talented people never make it to the top. Talent is a garden. Sure you can put the seeds in the ground and occasionally water the area but that will not mean you will have a bountiful harvest. It is when you spend time preparing the soil, rotating the crops, cutting back the invading weeds, and investing time; then the odds are more favorable of a better than average yield.
The talented kid in the surf shop knew this and put in the hard yards daily while David and I put in a lesser effort. The end result being that the kid became a world champion.
What did Donald have to do with this story?
Donald was somewhat talented. Not as natural at playing the guitar as I was. However, he practiced and practiced and found a mentor. Donald never did become a famous guitar player which some might consider a waste of his talents. I did at the time because to me, Don could have become a famous musician.
Now though, I see that maybe being a famous musician was not the right way to go. Donald played at home because he was uncomfortable with people and crowds.
The story of Donald did not end there with failing at being a guitar hero. Donald worked for his G.E.D. (General Education Diploma) and enrolled in a community college. Later, he attended a state university and continued working hard in academics. Now he is a professor at the same university. I think he is excelling at something more his style and equally important. Don is touching the lives of many and giving them the gift of education.
I still think it is important to work on your talents and not to use your talents to help you skate by. More importantly though, we all have many talents and there are many talented people. So if you end up as the shop owner who donates his food to help the homeless get back on their feet; you will not end your life as a failure because you did not become an astrophysicist.
Taking to the Field
As an older guy, I am spending more time in the garden. Sometimes it is boring, hot, and your hands become raw from raking and pulling the weeds. You can be alone. But in the end, you can see what you worked for.
It is never to late to take to the garden. There are many seasons to grow and different seeds sprout and yield at various times. However it is always easier to start early when your back is strong and you have the time.