Last night, my blog passed 1,000 views. For veteran bloggers, this probably seems like nothing, but since I’ve only be at it for a few months, this is a big milestone for me. I’ve never had so many eyes on my writing, and it’s great motivation to continue. Thanks so much to everyone who has been reading, whether it’s an accidental click or a habit.
I’ve been thinking about Bruce recently. Bruce was my friend for one hour of one day I spent on Prince Edward Island two summers ago when I was freshly graduated from high school.
I was on a vacation with my family, completing the customary Delgado Family Bus Tour. We’ve looped through Boston, Charleston, Montreal, Lexington and Concord, and more by bus, stopping off at various historical sites throughout the cities. Generally there’s a tour guide delivering a moderately corny commentary, and we crane our necks in vain attempts to see out the small, murky bus windows, past the lumpy heads of our fellow camera-toting tourists.
These photos usually are pointless; if seeing out of the window of a moving bus is tricky, you can imagine how difficult it is to snap a decent shot. Regardless, when our bus pulled up in front of the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, I took this picture. I’m not sure why – I had no reason to. It’s not even a particularly good picture. But whether it was random chance or the tingle of premonition, I documented my first glimpse of Bruce.
Bruce jumped on the bus and delivered the story of his shop in a quick, joking manner of speaking. After years of failed attempts to break into the restaurant world, he found himself with an enormous quantity of berries and a few bottles of sparkling wine – the last few ingredients, bought in bulk, that he needed to move out of his recently-closed restaurant by the next morning. Sad and stubborn, Bruce decided to cook the berries into preserves rather than moving out – a last hurrah before he had to leave the kitchen behind.
The preserves turned out so well that the recipe remains best selling to this day, and the moral of the story was that if you want something badly and stick around long enough, you’ll find your way in. Bruce’s success had been hard-won, but his easy manner of being revealed the benefits of the struggle to find success. It seemed clear to me that in the process, he had gained some heightened self-awareness and with that, release from the endless cycle of self-doubt and envy.
As everyone flooded off the bus and into the little shop to buy Bruce’s preserves, I circled the little shop, keeping my eyes on Bruce and waiting for a break in the conversation. I was drawn to him because he was so obviously at ease with himself. He wasn’t giving a pitch to tourists, he wasn’t a slick salesman who wore a kilt as a gimmick. He was just a guy living his own life, charting his own course. And he seemed so, so happy about it.
Finally he was free, and to my surprise, he turned to me. “I wanted to tell you that you have a great smile,” he said.
I’ll never know if the connection I felt was one-sided, but I thanked him and awkwardly, abruptly asked him for advice. “You seem so comfortable in your success,” I prefaced my request. “What advice can you share with me?”
He was in. “Learn from your mistakes,” he said without hesitation, and then said something about following your dreams. But then he seemed to stare into a distance wholly internal, and, grabbing a pen and a blank order form, he stepped outside with me, leaving the busload of tourists behind in the crowded shop.
“It’s all the D’s for me,” he said. “I’ll show you what I mean.”
The D’s turned out to be a long list of verbs, all starting with D. You start out with the dream – what you want out of life – and the dream leads you to make discoveries. At one point, the path can diverge to doubt and subsequent downfall. But if you resist the temptation to become discouraged and you repeat the middle steps enough times, you’ll eventually find your own true way. I wish I had brought the whole list with me to Charlottesville this summer, but you get the idea.
It seemed like no coincidence that PEI is also the setting of Anne of Green Gables, the novels that brought my friend and fellow St. Andrews student Susan and I together. During one period of eighth grade, we watched the nine-hour miniseries practically every month. Anne has very specific beliefs about friendship, saying,
Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.
A kindred spirit is one of those people who you meet and just connect with. You might have nothing in common with them. For example, when we became friends, Susan and I didn’t seem to be much alike. She was deeply religious, I was not. She had siblings, I’m an only child. I was eager to grow up, and she was eager to hang onto innocence for as long as possible.
But still, something drew us together. It wasn’t that we were neighbors – I rarely walked over to her house unannounced. Maybe it was our shared stubbornness or the fact that we mutually admired each other’s values and ambitions. Maybe it was something altogether intangible and totally abstract. But there was something there, some hook that has linked our lives for a decade now, and all of the incidental facts about us fell away. A lot has changed since those days, but the bones of our friendship have only been fortified by shared experience. We are kindred spirits; there’s no other way to describe it.
So, Anne is right. People reveal their similarities in surprising ways, sometimes so wholly and profoundly that you feel as if you’ve known them forever even if you never see them again.
The most important thing Bruce told me was to say thank you. People have good luck all the time, he said. But what makes a difference is when you stop to thank the world. It’s not about thanking the people who give you success, but thanking people for just existing and sharing the world with you. Whether we’re kindred spirits or you wound up on my blog by mistake, thank you.