This past summer, if you really want to call this aquatic adventure of a season “summer,” was my 30th high school reunion.
Although there was no reunion (schoolmates organizing the event felt there was too little interest, so cancelled the whole thing without consulting anybody), I got together with two grad friends last week, and we had a really great time together. You can tell the best friends you have when you’re apart for years but as soon as you see each other, it’s like no time passed at all.
Sometimes it seems strange that three decades have passed since I officially became an adult. While I was barbecuing with my friends last week, one of them was talking about his four grandkids. That’s probably what struck me most…I am the same age as people who have multiple grandchildren.
I hope I’m the kid of person who has learned something from the past 30 years.
One piece of wisdom I learned is “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” When I was working in B.C. early in my career, a fellow came to my office complaining a trucking company located up the mountain above his property was polluting his yard with gasoline. There was a rainbow effect floating on top of his water well. I called a provincial scientist from Nelson, and a few weeks later she called back and said, “No contamination, that’s actually a rare tree sap that looks exactly like gasoline when it’s in water.”
Another piece of wisdom I gathered was when I was working in Fort Macleod down by Lethbridge, and a fellow died in a late-night bar fight. He was brawling five or six guys in a parking lot at 3 a.m., then suddenly gasped and collapsed dead. Everyone assumed the other guys murdered him, but I phoned the coroner who performed the autopsy in Calgary, and he told me the fellow died of heart failure caused by cocaine damage to his heart. Apparently, there’s something in cocaine that eats heart valves, and some cocaine addicts die around the age of 50 because that’s the time it takes for the valves to be eaten. So he wasn’t murdered after all.
One more piece of wisdom I learned is not all bears are created equal. I was not aware that black bears can, generally speaking, be chased off with a broom. However, if you try that with grizzly bears, the grizzly bear will take that broom and shove it…well, you see the point I’m trying to make.
Yet another piece of wisdom I’ve collected is, “Work to live, don’t live to work.” Experts call this “life/work balance” nowadays. If all you do is work, you will be a very unhappy, unsatisfied person.
“Trust your gut instinct” is another morsel of wisdom I’ve collected. At a new job, just a day or two within starting, my boss said to me, describing his community, “We are a special breed of person here, better than other people. Far better than anywhere else in Alberta.” And he meant it. I knew when I heard that proclamation I didn’t belong there.
Lastly, everyplace over the last 30 years I’ve called home I have met brilliant people, made great friends and learned that every place you stop on this highway of life are decent people worth knowing.
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.