By Day 8 or 9 in college, I realized just how much power I had, yet how vulnerable I was.
My psychology class didn’t take attendance and the bearded professor on stage seemed like someone I’d never meet. It then occurred to me that if no one would notice if I didn’t show up, maybe I didn’t have to get to class.
At some point, you grow out of people telling you what to do. You have all the power, but you’re made vulnerable by circumstances you can’t control, or your inability to make good decisions. Maybe both.
This week has been the perfect example of a transition in my values. Well, maybe values is too strong a word since it conjures up something like personal ethics derived from a belief system. What I mean is what I value has changed, and it’s been again clear this spring break.
My girlfriend bought us tickets for the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Sacramento. I bought us a guided float on the lower Sacramento river. Not being able to go to the basketball games was met with a shrug and an “Oh well.”
Maybe I feel like professional and college teams make me more vulnerable to disappointment. Coaching high school basketball was much different in that there was a connection with the student athletes and the opportunity to build character and work toward a common goal.
Being a dude in a seat eating an over-priced hot dog and a pretzel with cheese is fun once in a while, but it’s not really me anymore. There was a time when I poured time into filling out brackets and did some research. As a guy who spent three years writing sports for the student paper at the University of Arizona and who had covered the NCAA tournament, I figured I knew something. But I never won the pool. Everyone else did, and some more than once.
Around then, I started to feel a greater appreciation for, and put a bigger emphasis on, figuring out how to trick a fish with a fly rather than just being a fan.
When your release reminds you of how bad things are, it’s not a release. It’s a reminder of just how much has been changed or taken from you.
There was also a time in my life, early on in the career thing, when I thought about how cool it would be to live somewhere close enough to have season tickets to a pro team. Now, I want to live in a place close enough I don’t have to drive far to get away. I guess maybe that’s one of those indications of old, when social distancing wasn’t a term with which I was familiar, but was something I certainly practiced.
It’s almost impossible to put the proper value on the good times because it’s when things are bleak, or kinda-bleak, or whatever now is, that we look back at how good we had it. Whenever I feel the need, or want to get outside, I can. It’s always there in some form and with the right attitude, it’s everything I could want and expect.
I will always be vulnerable to things I can’t control, but always have a certain amount of power to combat it.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.