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Sunday, January 21, 2018

the man at the bar

If you read my previous post about my trip to Jackson Hole, you’ll know that I had a blast meeting people while I was there—especially at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. I stated that there was one conversation that I would elaborate on in a future post, and that conversation was with a man named Scott. 

Scott (who was probably in his later 50’s) was in Jackson Hole on a ski bum trip, like myself. He too, had heard to check out the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. So, that Tuesday night the two of us sat next to each other drinking beers on horse saddles at the bar. Scott was good looking, wore black-rimmed glasses, kind of nerdy but very friendly and a great conversationalist. He talked fast like he was nervous—maybe wondering why the heck a 24 year old wanted to talk to him. However, I’m part Irish and have the gift of the gab so I enjoy talking.

I have thought about Scott every single day since I left him at the bar that night. Here’s why…

Scott was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) last spring. He had minor symptoms that seemed somewhat “normal,” so as a presumed “healthy” 50-something year old, when the results came back as ALS…Scott was absolutely shocked. 

The average life expectancy of a person with ALS is two to five years from the time of diagnosis. 
All of a sudden, Scott’s life started to flash before his eyes. 

He has lost almost all of his strength in his dominant hand and arm since the diagnosis. In fact, when he first introduced himself, I had to shake my right hand with his left (if you’ve ever done that, you know it’s kind of awkward). 

For Scott, this now meant he had to miss out on many things, including an annual snowmobile trip with his buddies because he could no longer hold down the throttle. He also didn’t want to be a “bitch boy” and ride on the back like a “wet blanket” (Scott’s words). 

Like myself, skiing has always been one of Scott’s #1 passions. Being located in Boston, he slowly started to get away from it over the years. However, when the thought of not being able to hold a ski pole or buckle your own ski boots starts to become a reality...you do something about it. 

So, Scott decided to become a part-time ski bum at the age of 50-something. He drives or flies (depending on where he’s going) to ski resorts all over the country for weeks at a time, all by himself. Not to mention, this past summer he bought and renovated an old van that he now travels with to National Parks and other destinations all over the country—talk about a go-getter! Fortunately, Scott is able to work remotely so he continues to make money to support his adventures (as I’m sure some of you were wondering). 

Scott changed my life that night for many reasons—not only did he have a renewed perspective on life…he made me question mine. 

My conversation with Scott lasted for a good hour. However, he didn’t ask the “typical” questions that most people ask me (where did you go to school, what do you do…blah blah blah). Scott asked me what I WANTED to do with my life. Assuming he meant career wise, I said I’m not exactly set on just one career yet. He said, “No…I want to know what legacy you want to leave behind.” 

Nobody has ever asked me that before (you know, besides like an online article), so I was a bit caught off guard. I awkwardly laughed and had to think about my answer. I told him, “I don’t know what I’m going to do, or how I’m going to do it…but I know I want to inspire people. I want to make people feel as though they are good enough. I want to encourage people to live full lives and to embrace who they are. I want to be somebody who makes everybody feel as though they are a somebody.”

It was the first time in my life that I had ever said that out loud to a complete stranger…and it was the first time in my life that my answer seemed to actually make sense. 

Scott told me that when the quality of your life starts to quickly dissipate, you learn what’s truly important to you. For him, it’s making a difference. Scott voluntarily works as a “Big Brother” to a few kids who live in public housing across the country. Many of them have no father figures or anyone to look up to. He tries to encourage them and help them break the cycle that they are so accustomed to. Scott, being the nerdy 50-something year old that he is, is afraid that he’s not making a difference. As my eyes quickly started to well up (as I tried my best to suck the tears back up being in a bar), I told him, “You are. You might not see it and they might not understand right now…but you are.” It took everything in me not to cry. It’s not everyday that you come across someone who values another human’s life more than their own—especially when their own life is in jeopardy. 

Scott, who was in pain and losing strength in his legs, arms and hands, was one of the most uplifting and inspiring people I’ve met in a long time. Like many people my age, I often question my own path in life—am I on the right one? Am I doing the right thing? Scott, losing bits of his life, told me that he wished he had taken better advantage of his life when he was my age. He explained to me that life goes much quicker than you think…and at times, throws you unpredictable and sometimes debilitating curveballs. 

I have no idea what Scott’s last name was, or if I’ll ever find out who he was… but he changed my life that night. I know it’s a cliché to say, “You only live once,” or “You could die tomorrow,” but it’s so completely true. None of us know what tomorrow brings—none of us truly know what kind of plans the universe has in store for us. 

For me, meeting Scott that Tuesday night in Jackson Hole, WY was no coincidence. I believe he crossed my path for a reason…and I crossed his for the same. 

A quote I once saved said, “You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about it’s width and depth.” 

Keep on keepin’ on—
XX, Laura 

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