It's no secret that I have wanted to be a storyteller, to be a writer, for most of my life. I devoted time and study to it. I have put out work and performed it in front of audiences across the country. It also probably won't come as a shock to you that I thought I had left the dream behind many times in my life. Before this project I would often tell people "I used to be a great writer." That is at least until a friend called me out to prove that I wasn't one now. This is what I thought, that I had lost my way, walked from the path and given up on the dream. How many of us have thought the same thing?
Jono Young never felt like he left the path he was meant to be on. Admittedly until talking to him today, I never considered that I was always on the path, that I had never really abandoned it. It's about perception, how we choose to see things. Did you leave the path, abandon the dream? Or did you move down the logical path to reach where you were always supposed to be? It's a revelation I had visiting with Jono over burgers on the bank of Shem Creek on a beautiful day of a waning summer.
Jono is brilliant. Not the kind of unreachable brilliant we seem to idolize in pop culture, the kind of brilliant who can take something remarkably complex and break it do into simple components. The kind of person who makes the best teacher. He comes from an art background, and just barely making it to school to study that. He loves sculpture and design, he loves solving problems. The dream for Jono may have changed, but he knows he has never left the path, never lost his way. He wanted to be an art teacher. Teach art to students and then take the summers off. It's a fitting dream for him. It's obvious as he shows me how to identify swimming schools of fish and the way to know when you are about to see a dolphin in the creek.
He was raised by the water, he loves it and you can hear it in his voice and know it in his study of the creek surface reflecting the noon sun.
Jono loves to learn. He views it as a lifelong process, but one with more steps than some people may see. He tells me about how first you learn, then you teach, but in the end it is all about communication. It reminds me of my talk with Paolo, of the wisdom in the realization that communication is an act of generosity. Knowledge is the wealth exchanged. Knowledge of a subject, of a person's mind, a person's heart, their stories, all of those associated pieces of knowledge are the wealth from that same generosity, the gifts given.
Listening to his story is incredible, he is so attentive, so focused and capable. He has made himself light and fast, reengineered his body to a healthy state. Jono is the type of person who will take the time to learn about something, to study it. He and I talk about how when we are kids we are conditioned to be right, and he tells me he is not concerned with right. Jono wants truth. Not an answer, but the answer. He explores the world with theory and thought. You can almost hear the smooth hum of a machine, the incredible power that must be his mind, as he talks about any subject, from his bacteria puppets theory to the role of commonality in building relationships. To be in front of that kind of mind is a marvel.
He asks a lot about why I started this project. Jono is fascinated with the moment when we make decisions. What drives us? How do we come to our decisive place? When is that time where the decision is made? As a storyteller I share this interest and we talk about it for a time, a couple of hours of the sun making its way over the creek. As I tell him the story, the thought that lifts my thoughts is this new realization that I never actually left the path, a revelation I would never have had save for this lunch.
Sitting across from Jono is a reminder that we all have some great power, some gift uniquely our own. Often we cannot even articulate to another what that is. Perhaps Jono knows what a marvel it is watching his mind work, listening to him speak through things and break down high concepts to your reality. Maybe he doesn't. For that matter, I am not always certain what my gift is either. Maybe we are never actually meant to know ourselves. We are just meant to share them with each other and learn, then teach, then repeat.
Favorite Dinosaur: Pterodactyl
Why: The exploration factor, their perspective would be cool, and not many things eat the flyers.