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May 21, 2009

May 2


Prologue : the idea


I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not the craziest idea in the world.  There are people who walk across the country (one guy did it with his mule), or cycle across the country, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or hitchhike around Europe, or climb Everest, or ski to the South Pole.  They’ve all got their reasons.  Those plans had some sort of genesis.  They all sounded crazy at first.


It started on a Saturday night when Logan (fifth grader) disclosed his homework status to Matt (his dad) and Jessie (his mom): Tri-fold poster on North Dakota due Monday, two of six panels completed, but still in his desk at school.  Sure, this wasn’t the first time we found ourselves around the dinner table trying to conjure a solution.  Although he hates to disappoint his teachers and parents, Logan had fallen into a classic pattern of “avoidance behavior,” caused by of fear of failure.  He’s a slow reader, and he knows it, and the lack of confidence that causes has begun to leech into other academic subjects as well.


Somehow, on this particular Saturday evening, the brainstorming got inspirational.  After isolating the remaining tasks of the assignment at hand, and outlining a plan of attack for the morning, we started waxing philosophical about the bigger issue.  Logan’s relationship to school in general was becoming more negative than positive.  Sure, “work harder” is one solution, and he persists in that, with decent results, but how long will his dedication last?  How long until he becomes a sullen, disenfranchised teenager who is fed up with the anxiety of playing a game in which the deck is stacked against him? 


It’s a rough puzzle to face, as parents, but what choice have you got?  “Stay in school, go to college, get a good job.”  So, Jessie and I answer for the hundredth time, “Yes, you have to go to school, unless you have a better idea.”  He answers matter-of-factly, as if the answer were staring us in the face, “I’d rather go skateboarding, but I know I can’t.”  Now, on another day, he might have been told, “That’s right, now suck it up and tough it out,” but for some reason, anti-defeatism perhaps, I challenged that assumption.


“Excuse me?  Are you telling me there’s something you can’t do?”  We discussed lateral thinking, creative problem solving, the third way, never letting anything stand between you and your dreams, and principles of positive thinking.  In some flash of energy, some moment of intellectual alchemy barely noticed by any of us, the three of us found ourselves talking about a solution that combined Logan’s skateboarding aspirations with an educational odyssey across all fifty states, not just a tri-fold poster of North Dakota.  On May 2, 2009, the train of Logan’s life completely jumped the rails.

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