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What I have learned from a rubber duck

In 1992, a shipping container fell overboard on its way from China to the United States, releasing 29,000 rubber ducks into the Pacific Ocean.

Ten months later, the first of these rubber ducks washed ashore on the Alaskan coast.

Since then, these ducks have been found in Hawaii, South America, and Australia, and are travelling slowly inside the Arctic ice.

But 2,000 of the ducks were caught up in the North Pacific Gyre—a vortex of currents moving between Japan, Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and the Aleutian islands.

Items that get caught in the Gyre usually stay in the Gyre; doomed to travel the same path, forever circling in the same waters—but not always. Their paths can be altered by a change in the weather, a storm at sea, or a chance encounter with a pod of whales.

More than 20 years after the rubber ducks were lost at sea, they still are showing up on beaches around the world and the number of ducks in the Gyre has decreased.

This means it is possible to break free. Even after years of circling the same waters, it is possible to find a way to shore.

This isn’t a column about rubber ducks, but the history lesson did strike a chord with me. As I see it, the ducks paralleled one of the great mysteries of the human experience: do we risk it and break free?

Imagine a fork in the road of life. A fork in the road, in my opinion, leaves me three choices. Go back the way I came, or go left or go right.

One of these three choices can lead me to back to a comfort zone and two of them to try unknowns. Any choice can lead me to stumble and fall.

Choice can lead me to leap and fly.

Choice can produce the flat stare, make me use swear words; make me laugh, cry, smile, or jump for joy. Choice can lead to wonderful experiences I’ve longed for, some lessons I’ve needed to learn and some I wish I’d never known.

What I know, for sure, is that I don’t want to be one of the lifers who are destined to travel the path of least resistance; forever circling in the same waters and not thinking I have the power to choose.

I don’t want to wait around for my course to be altered by a pod of whales or a windy day.

I want to be the one to break free.

The music band “Five for Fighting” challenges with their lyrics, “What kind of world do you want?”

I’d like to think simpler times would be nice. Times that don’t crowd our days and nights with stress and worry, and the incessant blathering of TV news programs that perpetuate the frenzy and hype of the terrible misfortune of others.

Turn off the television and connect with human beings. Tell stories of when you were young. Put away your cellphone. Stop texting and really talk to and listen to the ones you love.

Make the choice to connect the old-fashioned way.

Life is short. Make it count.