I made this title “Life Lesson Memory 1” because tonight I realized I have a small handful of events from my first 20 years on this planet that have become solidified in my head over time. And whenever they occur to me, it is with a smile, for good reason, and because I learned something outside of myself in those moments. And my brain was lucky enough to take note and digest someone else’s wisdom...over time. So with that small intro, I reintroduce:
Life Lesson Memory 1: Jon Engels and Levity.
October 1999 - Jenison Public Junior High School
I’m in a locker room getting ready for soccer practice. I have a few established friends on this amalgam of a team, considering everyone on the team was combined from different elementary schools barely more than a year prior.
On this particular day, I’m sitting directly next to one of my friends on the team, Jon Engels, putting on my shin guards. After the shin-guards come the socks, and for whatever reason, as I’m grabbing my yellow socks out of my bag, I see Jon grabbing his bright blue socks, and I suggest we trade a single sock for the fun of it. He’s a fun friend and he gladly takes me up on this and I exit the locker room wearing a combo of 1-yellow sock, 1-bright blue sock.
Since anything out of the ordinary, even something as simple as mismatched socks, is likely to grab the attention of pubescent-barely-teens in middle school, within 1 minute my socks had caught the attention of the smart-mouthed, skilled soccer player of our team (who I admittedly was jealous of).
Since I’m being honest, I bet he said nothing more than “Hey Chad -- what’s going on with the socks?” But being the small, unsure, un-confident, scared, middle school 13 year old that I was, I took such a question as “What do you think you are doing with weird socks you stupid fumbling Chad idiot?”. The reality is probably somewhere in between. But either way, those questions probably don’t seem like much, but back then, not being sure of anything, such a direct question about a “bold” move like mismatched socks, was enough to make me crack...like a 13 year old.
My response was nothing better than “Nothing...Jordan. Uhhhh...you’re stupid. Uhhhh whatever. aghghhhh.” And with that response, I did not feel smart. I did not feel cool. I knew I was not having a good time, but I didn’t understand why. I only gave such a nothing, defensive response because I did not have it in me to defend or even engage with someone I perceived as superior to me, critiquing me, about something outside “the norm”.
Not a highlight of my life...
But luckily I ran into someone down the hall. No memory of who, or what, or why. But I was still in that hallway when Jon Engels walked out of that same locker room; 1-yellow sock, 1-blue sock, just the same as me. And at that moment, I had an accidental look into a “redo” of the situation I just walked through.
I found myself a bystander to a rewind in time, like all of us have daydreamed of before.
Jon walked out of that locker room, and Jordan asked him essentially the same slightly antagonistic question. Something like “What, are you color blind Jon?”.
And in that moment, I watched a redo of my anxiety ridden, no-good-very-bad-day nothing-teenage-terrible-ramble moment, and I watched it turn into mutually beneficial laughter.
Jon simply replied with a big cheezy smile and said “I think it’s pretty.”
And they both had a small cackle, and both parties went on their way talking or walking or some such.
It may not seem like much, but it stuck with me all these years. Anxiety, depression, stress; I think that was one of the first moments I realized that how I choose to digest a situation and react, is the common denominator of the rest of my life -- not the imaginary version of me I’m worried people pre-conceive me to be.
I’m not saying I live my life by the lesson in this story. I’m just saying it was important enough for me to remember half a lifetime later.
Complementary Quote: “Never Take Life Too Seriously, You Never Get Out Alive” - VanWilder
is a thirty-something guy who hasn't been able to look away from politics since 2008. Around the time he got tired of staring at religion.