“Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can’t see what’s round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend
– Bruce Cockburn, Pacing the Cage
I often write about being a wild child. In grammar school my report cards always included a note from the teachers: “Can’t sit still. Talks too much. Doesn’t obey the rules. Won’t follow directions.”
A shy child, with a stick-thin body, braces and long, stringy hair, I drew outside the lines, colored my trees purple, and drove the teachers crazy because part of me was domesticated. I was a straight A student, loved learning and reading, played flute in the band, sang in the choir, had a perfect attendance record, and took special foreign language classes. I was also a reporter for our class paper in all its mimeographed glory, but mostly I lived for recess and gym so I could run free.
At the time I didn’t understand my parents of five children were overwhelmed with their lives. I didn’t see they were locked in cages of discontent unable to find a way to free themselves – or tame me. Probably at the time I thought it was neglect, or a lack of love. But now I understand my parents gave me the greatest gift of all. My freedom. Freedom to question everything and everyone. Freedom to learn resiliency and inner strength. Freedom to sit at the library where my wild thoughts could roam free in other locations, other lifetimes, other people’s stories.
Freedom came at the price of never quite fitting in though. Never conforming to the status quo. Never wanting what everyone else was racing towards. Did I want to fit in? Probably. But not at the expense of being caged in.
I still can’t sit still. I make my own rules. I don’t follow directions and I like to talk and make new friends. Most importantly, I still question everything and everyone. Maybe those are the very traits that should be taught in school to keep us untamed and just wild enough to stay out of the cages of our own making. Especially when the road leads us through dark places.