Monday, November 20, 2017


Oftentimes we have no idea the degree to which we affect the lives of others.  We also don't know when teachers will come our way.

At the tender age of twenty-one years old, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture injury in my left hip.  The doctor said, "Is this the beginning of arthritis?  We won't be able know."  I was told that it would take a year to heal and that I was not supposed to ride my bike.  I was obsessed with riding bikes, how am I not going to ride for a year??!!  I was devastated by the news.  It was the beginning of summer and I had just left my beloved Vail and come to Denver to go to hair school.  My heart was broken from leaving the mountains and I faced the uncertainty of going back to school for the first time since dropping out of high school.  Not being able to burn off the anxious energy of youth through cycling, I knew it would be one of the toughest years of my life. 

In order to stay something resembling sane, I would go for long walks around Capitol Hill in Denver on the perfect summer nights.  Focusing on flexing as many muscles as possible in my legs and bootie as I walked, I did my best to flush out the frustration through the limited physical activity I was permitted by the doctor.

One of these balmy nights as I clipped along at break-neck walking speed, I passed a gentleman with long dreadlocks.  I complimented the dreads as I passed by and he proceeded to initiate a conversation with me.  His name was Fred and he was a bit older than middle aged black man who had spent decades living on Capitol Hill.  We walked and talked for I think nearly three hours.

I'm sure I vented significantly about how hard my life was at twenty-one years old.  I'm sure I told him about the hip injury, and my obsessive walks.  I'm sure I expressed in detail my heartbreak from leaving the majestic mountains.  I'm sure I reeked of young adult insecurities masked by overconfidence.  I'm sure he knew I needed him that night. 

Nearly twenty years later most of the details of that night have faded into the depths of memory, but there is one thing that I hang onto to this day.  Sitting in a small park on 10th Ave and Penn, Fred looked at me and said, "Everyday you have to find something that inspires you.  You have to stay inspired."  There was a subtle urgency in his voice, he knew he was saying something profound to me. 

Although we lived only blocks away from each other, I didn't see Fred until a couple years later, at a grocery store.  He remembered me, but the magic I felt that summer night seemed to have faded for him.  His gifting of wisdom towards me had affected me deeply for months and years after our chance encounter that night, and it was strange that I felt he looked at me as someone whom he met once and chatted casually with.  No bother, it was nice to see him again.

Over the years when I've been living in Denver, I've attended performances put on by the dance school Fred plays drums for.  During another particularly difficult time in my early twenties, I knocked on his door, prying for more of the wisdom.  It's been years since I've seen Fred and I think of him from time to time.  But whether I ever see him again or not, he will always be with me.  When I find myself in a tough time and need some hope, or whenever I see or feel something deeply inspirational, Fred is there with me, reminding me to stay that way, inspired.  I sometimes feel like I made an unconscious promise to him and to myself that night. 

So for what it's worth, Everyday you have to find something that inspires you, You have to stay inspired.


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