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Four Years at the Mount

Junior Year

Mistakes were made

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

(9/2013) I canít tell you how many times during my 20 years of walking this earth Iíve thought those words as my plans came crashing down, or shouted them when I realized that there was nothing else for me to do but throw my hands up in the sky and ride whatever crazy train Iíd hopped on all the way to its destination. You see, Iím not sure if I would correct any of the mistakes that Iíve made. Every time Iíve made one I felt myself getting stronger and smarter (or at least more resistant to pain). I count every scratch and bruise on my body as a roadmap to the person I am today. While the pain, both physical and mental, of some decisions is something that often stays with me, I canít think of anything that I wouldnít do over if given the chance. Everything that I have done up to now, whether it has soared or come crashing down, has helped me to become the man I am, and although Iím biased, I like that. This quest started when I was a child, learning things that would later become important parts of the way I approach my life.

I suppose my quest for self-improvement (thatís what weíre calling it for now, so roll with me) started years ago before I was ever able to understand the learning that was taking place. I was five years old when I realized that there was an entirely different world outside for me to explore, enjoy, and make my own. We have five acres of land that is now used to play Frisbee or toss a baseball around with my college bros when they come to visit or get away for a weekend. Back then, those few acres seemed to span an eternity for my small legs and big imagination. I whiled away hours in the forest to the left of our house. Every stick that I picked up became a magic sword, and I would tromp around like it was my sworn duty to protect the forest and everyone in it. This was my kingdom, and all creatures, from the squirrels that would chatter at me amused, to the rabbits that I would occasionally chase after, were under my protection. Even when I tumbled from a log and skinned up my knees and elbows, I emerged from the tree line laughing and giggling. "I HAVE BEEN WOUNDED!" I would shout in a little voice when my mom would open the door and see me standing there covered in a few cuts and a lot of dirt with the biggest smile on my face.

While I wandered the forest I was a protector. When I explored the long stream that cut through our property and snaked around the town into other yards and wild places, I was a pioneer. As a kid there was always the feeling of being bound to your home and to your family. You ate with your family, talked with your family, and went where they decided to go. Most of the time it was wonderful, but sometimes, even at five years old, you longed for more. You yearned to explore.

My brother and I were always careful about how far we traveled into the forest. There were depths to that place that even brave knights like ourselves dared not tread. However, the stream was different. For us, it was a road made of water, pebbles, and clay. We could see where we were going and where we had been. We could travel as far and as long as we wanted to. If we had the energy to move, then we did, and every wonder we saw brought us back day after day. Minnows would swim around our ankles in massive schools, either unaware of the large mammals in their world or completely unperturbed by our presence. Blue herons would occasionally lope around the banks of the creek, gracefully dipping their long beaks into the water when they wanted a snack, emerging only when they wanted to look at us or up at the sky. Turtles of all shapes and sizes, some tiny and adorable looking with big droopy eyes and others with thick shells and large mouths made for snapping, would swim away as we passed. The stream was our Narnia, our Terebithia, and no matter how many times we were late for dinner or how many pairs of clothing we went through in a single day, we still came back. Stupid decisions didnít seem so bad when we could make them in such a wonderful place. Jumping into the water without knowing its depth after three days of rain: bad choice. Deciding to throw lumps of sun-hardened clay: bad choice. Going to play in our own world for hours upon hours: priceless.

From the time I was five until I was about 15, I went on some pretty wild and crazy adventures, more than I can remember and certainly more than I could ever hope to recount. By the time I was done, my mother had a lovely collection of hospital bracelets and the names of the hospital staff memorized. Eventually I did even out, and I hung up my carefree and dangerous ways for a fulltime career as a student and eventually a Resident Assistant. While I love my new life and the experiences that it brings, I wouldnít change the cuts and crashes, bruises and bashings I received as an adolescent for anything. If there was one thing I learned from those adventures in the afternoon sun with my brother and my imagination in tow it was this: it is okay to make mistakes. Itís a lesson that I feel our culture is losing sight of more and more every single day. We are so set on keeping things clean, safe, and antiseptic that we forget some of the intrinsic value of being human. We are all a little wild, messy, and adventurous at heart. No one is perfect or beyond the grasp of failure, pain, or frustration, and it was outside among the bushes and rocks and animals that I learned that lesson. If you stumble, get up. If you sink, keep swimming. If you feel like you canít go another step, go a mile. There is an endless world out there. There are people, places, and things that you can only dream of just waiting for you to claim them. All the world asks is for you to take one more step, and it doesnít care if you stumble doing it. Iím Kyle Ott, wonít you sit and read for a while?

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