Monday, October 18, 2010

Stay Golden

A month ago, I attended a character-voice and music-filled storytelling by Odds Bodkin. He travels all over the world to share his renowned epic tales with others. The piece that I got to hear was about the Odyssey. What he usually tells in four hours, he shortened to two hours, both of which whizzed by. Through his voice, whistling, guitar playing, and descriptive language, Bodkin brought me to another world. With each sound and word he uttered, the more entranced I became, until the walls disappeared, the floor turned into a wooden ship deck, and I became one of the sailors aboard Odysseus’s ship. I could feel the wind when he would blow into the microphone, and I could see the giant Cyclops that he so accurately described. From each tale, I found myself more and more enthralled, anticipating what would happen next. Bodkin has a way of explaining old historic tales in a new, fascinating way. With more character voices than Mike Myers in Austin Powers, it is no wonder that Odds Bodkin is an award-winning international success. His retelling of the Odyssey took me back to the time of circa 700 BC, right in the middle of the Trojan War. In telling the story of the Odyssey, Bodkin touched on the subject of what is really important in life. I found myself pondering that, as I left the event.

Odysseus had dedicated ten years of his life to the Trojan War, and, when he had finally led his soldiers to victory, he let his greed get the better of him. Instead of going home to his family and friends, he insisted that he and his troops continue traveling in hopes of finding treasure. They would sail north and raid various villages and islands until they had enough treasure to impress their loved ones. Their bad decision after bad decision led to many misadventures that often left more of Odysseus’s men dead. By the end, Odysseus and his men spent ten years traveling in search for treasure, yet Odysseus was the only one that made it back home alive. Whether or not it was worth the trouble is hardly debatable. It is pretty clear that the right choice would have been to be happy about the victory of the Trojan War and to not press their luck any further. Odysseus was the head of the troops and, therefore, he was the one who should have had the sense to let his troops go home to their families who they had not seen in ten years. Unfortunately, he wanted more than to have won the war; he wanted the fame and the money. This, ultimately, was his downfall.

When thinking about what I would have done, I would like to say that I would have gone home after the war was over. Truthfully, I am not so sure that is what I would have chosen. Even as the fall break approached at Loyola, I was faced with a decision: should I go home, or should I go to my friend’s college to have fun? If there is a way to have both, could I choose that option, or, in trying to fit everything in, would I make anyone feel shortchanged? As I pondered further, the dilemma was not getting any easier. I decided to do as I always do in these sorts of situations—leave it up to fate. After all, as they say in the hit ‘90s movie, Can’t Hardly Wait, “There is fate. But it only takes you so far, because once you're there, it's up to you to make it happen.”

Two hours later of checking bus and train schedules, trying to find a way to get to the school where my friend goes, I found that all of the tickets were either sold out or extremely expensive. Finally, I decided to check the schedule to see if there were any available trains to my hometown in New Jersey. Sure enough, there were multiple trains, all of which were far less expensive than the ones to my friend’s school. It was pretty clear what fate had picked out for me.

With my bags packs, I headed to the station. I had my longtime best friend pick me up, which ended up looking like a scene straight out of a movie. After I got off the train, I called her and she said that she was also on the platform, yet neither of us could see the other person. Then, as the train in front of me pulled away, I looked across the tracks to see my best friend of 12 years standing on a bench looking around. After we caught each other’s eye, we both immediately ran to the nearest steps, finally meeting at a tunnel. At which point, I through my bags down and sprinted over to her. We hugged and immediately started filling each other in on the latest gossip and comparing crazy college stories.

The best part happened next when I got a text message from my Mom asking me a question to which I replied, “Why don’t I just tell you in person?” She responded, “??” Minutes later, I opened my front door and my parents nearly fainted from surprise and excitement. At that moment, I realized that I had chosen the right thing. Sure, I could have been partying at a big college with other friends, but having quality time with old friends and family made the other option pale in comparison. All it took was a little bit of fate and some home cooked meals to put everything into perspective for me.

To Odysseus, going home right after the war did not seem very appealing. He wanted to find treasure and have adventures on the seas with his crew instead of going home right away. The men who agreed to do this with him all ended up dead before ever seeing their families or getting rich in the process. As revealed in Zora Neale Hurston’s short story, the Gilded Six Bits, the characters, Missy May and Joe, were content before they had money. Once they tried to get their hands on some gold, their lives ended up being much worse than they had been to start. Sometimes, the treasure in your life is not actual gold or even a big college party; rather, it is the golden moments spent with the ones you love most.

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