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McAbee: Seeking a better story

by Jeff McAbee

Going to a basketball game at Summit High School is an inexpensive and community-minded way to spend an evening. And let me tell you, from what I’ve seen so far this winter, past seasons are no indication of future performance. These boys and girls are getting it turned around. However, despite being physically capable, we languish in a culture of defeat because we remember our losing seasons of yore. Our biggest challenge is convincing ourselves that we can be successful in spite of our past.

At a game recently, a student, Abbie, asked: “Mr. McAbee, did you grow up here?”

“No, but I came here to ski in 1988 …” (realizing this was almost a decade before she was born) “… and I’ve wanted to live here ever since. It just took me a little while.”

“Why did you want to move here? It’s so cold.”

Surprised that she wanted to peek into the dusty recesses of my mind, I answered.

“I love the beauty of the place, the people and the lifestyle, I guess. And like many who move here, I had come to a time in my life when I needed a geographic fresh start.”

“Did you say ‘geographic fresh start'”?

“Yeah, you know, a change in my GPS coordinates resulting in a change of scenery to mirror the metaphysical change occurring to me on a spiritual level. We do it all the time,” I continued. “People come to Summit County from all over the world to renew themselves in the beauty of this place. Some of us stay for a week and others get a PO box and move in. Fresh starts are available all over; new year, new week, new moon, new shoes.”

She nodded.

“The world can be tough on you, Abbie. Things don’t always work out just like you envisioned. And when the mental picture you have for your life doesn’t match what you see on the outside it can be stressful and disheartening.”

The buzzer sounded, the small crowd cheered as the JV defeated a local rival.

“For example, I knew that I wanted to live in Summit County but I had created a life that wasn’t compatible with that dream. The gulf between what I had and what I wanted left me with an empty feeling. But my identity or the outward expression of my ego had become so entangled with another person and place that extraction seemed nearly impossible. Hey, why are you texting while I am talking to you?”

“Oh, sorry, Mr. McAbee.”

“What does ‘TMI’ mean?”

“Huh? TMI?”

“I saw it on your screen.”

“I don’t know. I probably misspelled a word or something.”

“Anyway, finally the opportunity to live a better story presented itself.”

“A better story?” Her eyes lit up. I ignored her sarcasm.

“Yep. We’re the heroes of our own movies, Abbie. I didn’t like the storyline of my movie but the power to change it lay within me. I wanted the adventure, the quest, and in the process I wanted to win the heroine of this new epic.”

“That only happens in movies.”

“Not true. It’s just that in movies they take out all the boring bits that make up a real life.”

“Mr. McAbee the varsity game is about to start.”

“Fortunately, I was able to ship most of that old life on crates to a small ranch in Texas where I had a great big ol’ bonfire. I burned photos, cards, memorabilia, and journals dating back to when I was in high school. And what I couldn’t burn I buried in the sandy loam using a tractor.”

“Why?”

“Like I said, I wanted to live a better story.” Abbie looked at her friends in the stands and spread her hands out palms up. The varsity game had started.

“Come on Summit!” someone cheered.

“I asked an acquaintance of mine who recently moved here from where it’s 80 degrees year round about the ‘leap of faith’ that brought her here. She told me the most incredible story of slaves who, after being released from bondage, actually wanted to go back their captor rather than face an uncertain future. But for her it worked to focus on what she had to go back to. She concluded that what lie ahead couldn’t be as bad as it was providing she focused her mind on the important stuff. Isn’t that cool?”

“Well, Mr. McAbee… um, I think I’m going to go over here now.”

“Alright, Abbie, it was nice talking to you. Enjoy the game.”

By the end of the first quarter the team was up five points. The future looks really good for Summit.

Jeff McAbee lives in Breckenridge. He’s a campus supervisor at Summit High School.


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