We all live many lives, travel many journeys, in this mass expanse of hours and minutes we call a lifetime. In one of my previous lives I was an aircraft mechanic, a complete grease monkey, one with the wrenches and gears. It's a life of happy memories, travel, service and simplicity. To be honest I have always had a place in my heart for that part of my life. Meeting Stacey Goodmen today recalled that part of both of us and, after the usual moments that begin a conversation with a stranger, we slipped into the back and forth of two grease monkeys on a bench in the afternoon shade of Charleston's Angel Oak.
Stacey served for four years as a mechanic in the Coast Guard. There is a bond among those of us who have chosen to serve, no matter how long, and that is as true for myself and Stacey as it is for any of my friends. Add to that the camaraderie that accompanies spending years fighting the losing battle of work on large equipment in stressful conditions and you have an incredible recipe for a connection.
Stacey is strong, amazingly strong. Her life has taken so many twists and turns, she has lived nine of them to this point and very well may live a few more. Her strength is not an assault, not a crassness, but the strength of someone who has learned that the secret to life is learning to get up when you get knocked down. In a world where we talk about our "best life" we often forget that we will get knocked down, and that the fall will hurt. We sometimes forget that we can just get right back up, we talk ourselves into thinking this might be the end of it, when all we have to do is stand up, as hard as the simple things may be sometimes.
It's not just her strength though, Stacey and I fall into the rhythm of old friends. I'm certain the passing tourists see us and think we must have served together, or known each other at a different point in life. We could've, we have both just recently started our latest incarnations, our newest pursuits and our newest selves. Jokes pass back and forth, she has a great laugh, it reminds me of Mike's. We swap stories of ships and aircraft, of the different places we have been and our journeys, two mechanics travelling the world learning by doing.
That's something critical to Stacey and her view of the world, the concept of learning by doing. I love books, always have, but there are times when theory needs to be set down and we need to practice what we have studied. It's not just technical skills, not just business skills, it's life. It is fine to say we love people, but how do we know for sure until we go out and love them? How do we say we love and value relationships unless we go out, share life and its messes, with one another? We learn by doing, not by hiding ourselves away, even thought we may get knocked down, you just have to learn to get back up.
My favorite moment comes when we talk about the greatest life philosophy, straight from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. You all know the scene, where our hero is tasked with picking the Holy Grail from a room full of cups. The villain selects an ornate chalice, the cup of a king, and quickly perishes. Meanwhile, our hero picks the more humble cup, the cup of a carpenter, and is awarded with eternal life. The lesson, it's not always the fanciest cup that holds the key to your life, the key to your happiness. The best looking option is not always the best option, sometimes it's the plain cup that holds all of the magic.
As we talk about this I think of all of the amazing stories, all of the absolutely phenomenal people I have met on this journey, in the most unlikely places. I think of the most generous soul I have met in the heart of a 15 year old boy, of the incredible woman who learned to get up from the biggest knockdown and keeps fighting. I think about the first woman to graduate The Citadel, the girl seeking wisdom, the former paster with dreadlocked hair in his garage. Visions cloud my head of Magical women, survivors of terror, do gooders, dreamers and those seeking their dreams. They are not always the fanciest cups, in fact they are all the more beautiful for their scars and imperfections, for their struggles and the smiles that shine through them
Add to that list the nine-lived woman with my dear friend's amazing laugh, my fellow servicemember and grease monkey. Stacey is beautiful found in the place where true beauty always is, in the cup of a carpenter.
Favorite DInosaur: Petrie from The Land Before Time (Pteradon)
Why: He was always holding everyone together.