Taco ‘Bout It: Peaks and Valleys

by Taco Olmstead

I was given a myriad of topics for consideration this past week. I actually started writing on a few of the topics but found myself splashing about in a complacent quagmire. I write from the heart and expose my soul and honestly, that magic just wasn’t there. After having to mourn Norman Dimitrouleas and then a week later officiate the marriage of one of my closest friends, my heart is heavy and my emotions are raw.


The greatest lesson I’ve taken away from this last week is the strength we find in our friendships. When we are at our lowest, the comfort we find in the embrace of a friend is beyond measure. When we find ourselves at a pinnacle in our lives, there is nothing better than sharing that with our friends. It is there in their smiles, their laughter, their tears and fears that we find the strength of our bonds and the reasons we look to each other in those high and low moments.


I look back through my life, the 35 years of friendships I’ve had, and I can still remember the first person I met on my first day of school. Living on a farm in Vermont, there was not a plethora of children for me to hang around and being the son of a single father didn’t allow for “play dates”. School was my first opportunity to meet other children. I remember being walked to the end of my driveway and my father sending me off on that big yellow bus, the kids on the bus didn’t know what to make of a four foot tall brown skinned kid with a bowl cut, they just stared and I found the nearest empty seat I could find. It was a quiet ride to the school for me as no other children ventured to speak to me. I was already intimidated by the rest of the day and the day had only begun. I pretty much assumed that I would be cooked and eaten by the school staff shortly after my arrival.


The school bus whirled into the school parking lot, came to a stop and one by one we began to file out. The moment my foot hit the ground, I heard a girl say “Hey! You look like Rocky! I’m Lisa!” That nickname could have very easily gone the wrong way and to this day I thank Sylvester Stallone for creating a movie about a tough Philly boxer. While so many thought the nickname this second grade girl had given me was representative of the movie, in actuality it was meant to convey the image of a short flying squirrel that hung around with a dumb moose, Rocky and Bullwinkle for those of you too young to remember. Needless to say within a few weeks the nickname for the boxer was found to be more fitting as evidently most of the kids fathers at the school had evidently killed my father in the Vietnam war. Funny how children so quickly realize when someone looks different than themselves.


I have to wonder how things would have played out if Lisa had corrected people and told them the name “Rocky” was implying a resemblance to an animated tree rodent versus a boxer? How much more cruel the other kids would have been, how much different of a person I am today? Our friends help define us. They allow us to not only feel more at ease but as well as be easier on ourselves. When we feel more at ease and don’t apply as much pressure to ourselves it is easier to simply be ourselves and I believe that is what most of us really want, to be around people who will not only allow us to be ourselves but celebrate our identity as well.


I valued my friendships twenty years ago, I valued them even more last year, after last week, I have found my friends to be one of the most valuable aspects of my life. It is with my friends I find meaning in my actions, I find the value of my life and this world exponentially enhanced. When you lose someone you love, someone who inspired you to be better, a part of you is lost with them. When you celebrate a peak moment in a friends life, you suddenly gain a new perspective. These are the peaks and valleys of our lives and you cannot have those high peaks without having deep and dark valleys. While the climb from one peak to another is sure to be a daunting task, gather your friends, everyone loves an adventure! Your friendships will help you weather the storm, celebrate the sunlight, hold your umbrella and loan you a coat when life gets cold. Value the moments you have with each other friends, and when you’re done reading this please tell someone you love that you love them. Let’s all celebrate our lives together today.


Peace on yer path…