I used to have a tree house when I was a kid. It was really nothing more than a big piece of plywood laid out over two branches about two thirds up this tree in front of our apartment. The plywood was taken from a work site on the parking garage that I eventually jumped off of but it was a piece that proved too weak for the builders to use. Being a ten year old kid I couldn’t tell that this piece really had no hope of holding me aloft for long. It broke the first time I sat on it, there were three of us up there at the time so that might have helped things along, and I fell onto a larger tree branch directly under where we had placed it. The wood wasn’t broken enough to abandon the concept so we placed it higher up and it would seem more precariously in the tree where the branches were closer together. Though we thought it to be safer I knew that eventually someone would fall again and actually get hurt this time and my life being what it is I knew I would be the one to fall. Knowing it would happen soon I went up the tree one day, very early in the morning before anyone else had risen, with the intent to pull the wood down and get rid of it. Up I went and for the first time I began to see just what it was that we had done by placing our “Fort” so high above the ground. Being a boy of ten I should have been able to climb to the spot with relative ease and drop the wood down to the ground. However we had placed it so high that we were actually only a few feet from the top of the tree, yes the branches were closer together but they were also much, much weaker. Reaching our fort I sat there for a minute and looked out over the neighborhood from the vantage point I now had , high up the biggest tree on the street and being barley after sunrise the street was empty. I could see everything was peacefull and calm which is something it almost never was. I sat there looking at this place that had been my home for about a year and reflected on all the things I had seen and done in that time. I saw someone killed, was nearly run over on the freeway, saved someone life on the same freeway, and many more things than should ever have happened to someone that young. I sat there thinking long enough that I forgot my purpose up that tree, that is until I heard the wood crack. Barely audible and almost imperceptable the wood splintered and split underneath me. Like in some old Warner Bros. cartoon I hovered just long enough for me to know that I would fall very fast and very hard to the ground. I hovered there seconds before free fall and knew with out a shadow of doubt that this would hurt more than anything else ever had. It occured to me though that since I knew it would hurt, and it would take a few seconds to fall that far anyway, I could brace myself and the pain would be less for the knowing. I was wrong. Past branches that gouged at my flesh and leaves that caressed my skin I fell some twenty feet. Finally hitting the ground I lay in the dirt hoping to stay conscious long enough to get help and wondered how stupid could I be to think I could brace myself for that. After what seemed hours I rolled onto my back, sat up and tried to rise. I couldn’t make it past a kneeling position so I stayed that way and tried as best I could not to fall back down again. Eventually I got up and covered with dirt, sweat and blood walked home.
There are two lessons I learned from that experience:
No amount of expectation will make pain any less
and more importantly
Sometimes the climb is worth the fall