I fell into the Provo River.
It wasn’t on purpose. And it wasn’t comfortable.
It was years ago, at a multi-day conference in Salt Lake City held by the company I work for. We had meetings throughout each day, but we had one afternoon for recreation. We could choose from a variety of activities – horseback riding, visiting the Olympic Village, jeep tours, fly fishing, etc.
I picked fly fishing.
I only fished a couple of times growing up – and loved it. So it was a no-brainer when the opportunity arose.
Only three people chose that activity. I think it was because all three of us were “city folk” while others had grown up around water. That was OK, because we would have the river to ourselves.
We had an experienced guide who drove us out to the river. He shared his love of the ourdoors, answered our questions and built our excitement about the adventure ahead.
We pulled off the road and unloaded the equipment – the poles, the bait, and chest-high rubber waders.
“Are these waders really waterproof?” we asked.
“I guess you’ll find out,” our guide joked.
They weren’t really comfortable or stylish – but I didn’t care. I was standing in the river, wearing my rubber waders, listening to instructions on fly fishing. It was perfect.
And I was dry.
It was a sunny day with a cool breeze, and I caught my first trout within about 5 minutes. I was disappointed to find out it was “catch-and-release,” which means I wouldn’t be bringing the fish home to my wife to share a meal. (I’m not sure what response I would have gotten at the airport TSA checkpoint with a trout in my carry-on luggage.)
We each had our own spot in the river, a couple hundred feet apart. I caught a number of fish, and each time the guide helped me remove the hook and place the fish back in the river.
After a while, the rocky bottom of the river became uncomfortable, so I found myself shifting around for a better footing.
But then I backed into a hole in the rocks and couldn’t keep my balance.
I’m not sure what I must have looked like going down, but suddenly I was horizontal instead of vertical, and eye level with the water.
I tried to stand up, but felt like I was glued to the bottom. Fortunately the river was fairly shallow, so I managed to crawl over to the bank. When I managed to sit up, I made a discovery about chest-high rubber waders:
I knew they kept the water out. But once you’ve been laying in the river, they keep the water in.
So I’m sitting on the side of the Provo River with waders full of water – which is why I couldn’t stand up. They held a lot of water.
I felt like the Michelin Man on vacation.
No one had seen me fall. Eventually the guide wandered over to see why I wasn’t fishing. He said, “You’re all wet.”
Profound, I thought.
I laid down so some of the water could drain off, and then pulled them off. My clothes were soaked, but I knew they would dry eventually.
The problem was that after all the afternoon activities, our CEO had invited the entire company to his house for an outdoor barbeque. That meant I wouldn’t be able to change before the event.
By the time we arrived, it wasn’t obvious to my colleagues that I had gone swimming. But my clothes were still damp throughout, and I spent the evening freezing until we finally went back to our hotel.
When I got home, people asked me how the company conference was.
I didn’t tell them about the speakers we heard. I didn’t describe meetings where I was taking notes and talking about strategy. I didn’t talk about sitting on an airplane with nothing happening.
I said, “I fell in the Provo River.”
Nobody likes drama. We go to great lengths to avoid it.
We like drama when it’s third-person and past-tense.
But what do we talk about when we come home from vacation? Either the things that went terribly wrong, or the good things that took our breath away.
We don’t talk about reading the newspaper on the balcony; we talk about the unexpected moments.
Drama is what provides the color in our lives. It’s where our biggest memories come from. If we think back over our whole life, we remember the drama. There are tragic events we wish we could have avoided, along with brilliant events we wish we could repeat. Together, they provide the contrast that makes up the richness of our lives. (Colors look the most brilliant against a dark background.)
For me, it’s a good reminder to avoid getting stuck in “comfortable.” It feels nice, but it’s not building memories.
Maybe it’s time to explore. Maybe it’s time for adventure.
Maybe it’s time to appreciate the dramatic life.
Maybe it’s time to stretch beyond black-and-white living.