What is the perfect gift? Ask a hundred people, and you’ll get a hundred different answers. But when you give one, or receive one — you know it.
I received one of those gifts thirty years ago. I still carry it with me today.
The summer of 1981 was magical for me. I’d pedaled across the U.S. with my best buddy Thomas. The sense of accomplishment was amazing. My connection to the world around me had never been so raw and wonderful.
But coming home after an adventure can be a tough transition. I’d taken a quarter off from the junior college I was attending. I’d been taking general education courses with no particular focus (Astronomy, Geology, English Comp, Theater, Business Math, etc.)
On my bike trip, I knew exactly (well, almost) where I was going. In life … I was lost. Too many options, and none of them was presenting itself as my future major, let alone my future.
I was talking with my mom. I babbled about my frustrations, and lack of any focus.
She looked me in the eye and said, “I want you to know something. Whether you become a biologist, or an actor, or a teacher … or whether you put a pack on your back and wander the world for the rest of your life … I want you to know that I consider you a success.”
That was it. In twenty seconds, my mom had given me the perfect gift. It was as if she had given me a magical gift certificate. I didn’t have to worry about what I did. I just needed to fill in the gift card with whatever my heart desired.
Little did my mother know how literally I’d take her words. Though I’ve used panniers instead of a pack.
And it hasn’t all been bicycle travel. I’ve driven trucks, acted on stage, waited tables, fought forest fires, written columns, and tried many other pursuits.
But no matter what I’ve done, I’ve always known that in the heart of one of the most important people in my life, I’ve been a success.