“Life is difficult,” M. Scott Peck, “The Road Less Traveled.”
The wonderful paradox of M. Scott Peck’s classic work is that once we accept the truth of life’s difficulty, we can transcend it and it ceases to be as difficult. A few of life’s difficulties intertwined last week and became less so in the process for me.
The week ended with my high-school-aged son, Schuyler, losing his spot in ocean lifeguard training due to hypothermia. We have an amazing program here in Laguna Beach and part of the emphasis is on guards’ abilities to swim in cold water for extended periods.
Schuyler simply doesn’t have the body fat to sustain himself. He finished the first event Saturday but was confused, vomiting and shaking uncontrollably. He was taken to the lifeguard headquarters and warmed up under the showers. Officer Kai Bond was very kind and encouraged Schuyler to bulk up, do more ocean swimming and come back next year. We bought a lot of sport shakes and other bulking agents and did an extended ocean swim on Sunday, He’ll be better prepared next year.
Although severely disappointed, the life lesson of failure, regrouping, re-planning, working hard and (hopefully) overcoming a significant obstacle is a great learning experience for anyone, but particularly for a sophomore in high school. The process offers as much or more than the prize.
In a town where kids have access to more resources than most, it’s less impressive to me when a kid wins something that they’ve been coached and spoon-fed to achieve than when they struggle, fail, re-engage and figure out how to work through a problem to a solution.
One problem that kids and grownups have not been able to find solutions to easily has been skateboarding.
The kids came back and won a little ground on skateboarding last week. While I felt they had been treated badly in the political process originally, it was refreshing to see the City Council pull back from the idea of banning everything over a five percent grade to more surgical bans.
One concern I do have is that surgical bans do not become a street-by-street attempt by anti-skateboard elements to eliminate skateboarding one road at a time.
Verna Rollinger had my favorite comment when she started off the vote by saying that she didn’t want to ban any streets to skateboarding. I think that Jane Egly and Kelly Boyd could build a nice coalition around Rollinger’s ideas. Regardless of the final outcome, the council voted unanimously to support the more limited approach to banning skateboarding on select streets. It is good to see the city finding common ground.
Laguna Surf & Sport is selling “Support Freedom” t-shirts that generate proceeds to pay for the pro-skateboard activities here in town.
We also had a request for t-shirts in Japan. The largest distributor for our business, Kaoru Nakajima-san, requested XS t-shirts to sell in support of earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. While selling t-shirts may sound like a bake-sale approach, Nakajima-san had 6,000 people at his birthday party in early March and is speaking with Oprah in Shanghai this May. Him promoting a simple idea like buying a t-shirt can make a huge difference.
The connections between Laguna Beach and Japan strengthen when our local brands support their urgent needs. Thalia Street Surf Shop is also selling t-shirts to support Japan relief.
Sometimes the desire to do something and the means to accept those actions don’t align perfectly.
I had written last year about Bill McDonough and the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) initiatives that we had hoped to initiate in Laguna Beach. Unfortunately, the Cradle-to-Cradle Institute wasn’t ready for a high school C2C project and the best intentions didn’t line up with the best results.
It’s impossible to be successful at everything all the time. Some of life’s best lessons are learned through failure, assessing what went wrong and then re-approaching the problem. Some projects take weeks and months to correct and win, some take years, and some even longer than that. Some projects, like vigilance in support of liberty, are eternal.
The sooner in life we learn that life is difficult and what it means to transcend that truth, the better life becomes for us.
David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.