The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

February 14, 2010

There is a Story Out There For Everyone

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 6:52 pm

As is the case with just about everything else in my den/office, the small bookshelf over in the corner is a bit of a cluttered mess these days.  Yet among a pile of various technical manuals which may or may not be obsolete by now, some of the miscellaneous literary detritus I have accumulated over the years and the various software boxes that I happen to be saving for some unknown reason, there is one particular book that stands out.  Several years ago, my Opa (the Dutch word for Grandfather) wrote and published his life story in book form, giving copies of the book to every member of his family.  Although I have never read the whole story cover-to-cover, his story (as well as those of my dearly departed Oma and their children) is covered in detail, from growing up in a poor family in the Netherlands, living through World War 2 in Holland and Germany, then immigrating while maintaining a long-distance relationship with his future wife until they could finally be united in America.  It was there that they raised their family, moving around frequently and living in many different places before finally settling down in Federal Way, where the family has been based since the mid Seventies.  There is a lot in this book that I did not know about my Opa until I read this, and although we are fortunate that he is still with us at this time, there are many little details contained in this book that would otherwise be completely lost to us upon his passing.  I am grateful that I have this book, and that I will be able to share it with future generations.

Although there are a number of extraordinary circumstances along the way, I’m sure that when my Opa was living through all of these experiences, it is unlikely that he ever gave much thought to how all of this would look in print sixty years later.  Sometimes we’re just too busy living our lives and going through our everyday routines to realize that as we go along, there is a story that is constantly developing and unfolding.  Although there are some people out there who would dispute this assertion, I still believe this to be true.  While there are times in people’s lives where the plot may not be moving particularly quickly, as well as other times of great excitement or turmoil, over time a story develops, unwritten page by unwritten page.  Some people may tend to think that they have nothing interesting going on in their lives at times, but as I read through my Opa’s story, sometimes it seems that some of the most mundane details can become the ones which stand out the most.  Reading of some of my Opa’s travails in dealing with a series of decrepit old vehicles (a subject near and dear to my heart, whether I like it or not) or reading of some of the odd jobs that they worked over the years to try to make ends meet provide some of the most interesting portions of the story.  Of course, the big important details (immigration, marriage, having children and other such major events) provide the highlights of the story, but unless you happen to live in the middle of a big-budget action flick, chances are there’s going to be plenty of life going on in the middle of all that, and if you give it some thought, that life can be a lot more interesting than you might give it credit for.

One of my favorite TV shows these days is Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel, in which host Mike Rowe meets with people who, as the intro to the show describes, make an honest living doing the kind of jobs that make civilized life possible for the rest of us.  Throughout his travels, he performs a seemingly endless series of inglorious labors that many people would consider to be mundane or even demeaning, wisecracking his way through dirt, grime, mud, and more than a little bit of danger along the way.  In spite of the “dirty” nature of the work he performs, he often finds surprisingly happy people doing the work, including a number of people who gave up the 9-to-5 routine for this type of thing.  There is a TED talk that Mike Rowe gave a little more than a year ago which talks about this very subject.  I must warn you that the talk contains some pretty graphic descriptions of sheep castration, so I’d strongly recommend against eating anything while you watch this, but try not let that dissuade you from watching this, because he says some very interesting things here.  That said, you can find the video here.  In short, Mr. Rowe has managed not to somehow make the jobs that he performs and the people he performs them with seem more interesting than they are, but he has just managed to show us that a lot of these mundane tasks aren’t nearly as mundane as we might think.

This also holds true for forming new relationships with people.  If you think about it, whenever you meet new people and try to get acquainted with them, your goal is to learn what their story is.  Oftentimes this tends to be done in something of a roundabout way, but in essence, this is what you are ultimately hoping to gain from the conversation.  Some people fear that their story may not be interesting enough to share with people, but to anyone who thinks that, I would have to remind them that the story is still being written, and there’s still time to change the plot, the setting, and even the characters.  Not only that, but I think that people also tend to shortchange themselves on this one quite frequently.  You don’t need to be living the life of a millionaire socialite, a globetrotting adventurer or an action hero to have a compelling story.  In the right circumstances, even the most mundane things can be surprisingly compelling.  While it’s true that at times the story ends in tragedy or despair, or that sometimes the plot takes an unexpected twist for better or for worse, one can never truly know how things will turn out until they happen. 

There is, however, one story that I take a particular interest in, even though I don’t know it yet.  That story belongs to the woman who I will find someday, who will someday become my companion for time and all eternity.  I’m pretty sure if someone had asked me ten years ago what my life’s plans were, being 31 and still single probably wouldn’t have been included anywhere in the list, but for better or for worse, that’s the way things have worked out.  I’d like to think that I haven’t completely given up the search for the one who is to become my eternal companion just yet, but sometimes I do find myself wondering if I really am destined to try to complete my life’s journey on my own, fully aware of the consequences of doing so.  Even so, I do still have reason to believe that somewhere, there’s someone out there destined to have some slightly nerdy and occasionally scatterbrained  guy show up and completely rewrite the rest of her story.  I also tend to believe that I haven’t met this person yet, but if I happen to be wrong about this (as I haven’t been known to have the best record on accuracy in this department,) please feel free to correct me on that…


1 Comment »

  1. Wow, well done. I hope you find someone to help you write your story.
    With regard to this post, I thought how you tied to past to the present and your own life was memorable and touching.

    Treasure those past memories of your grandparents. You are lucky to have book about your family’s history. Make sure you ask them anything and everything you want to know about their lives and your past.

    I wish my family had been more willing to share their past and how they made it to the US from Europe and the Ukraine. I heard some stories, but not much. No one ever wanted to talk about the past because it was so painful for them to remember. They lived through some pretty horrific experiences. It was much easier to forget and live in the present, but unfortunately, their story is lost.

    Comment by Debra Sinick — February 17, 2010 @ 8:40 am

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