At six years of age, Cody Sheehy found himself by losing himself.
Cody and his sister were playing their familiar game “explorer” when Cody got lost. But instead of sitting and waiting for his mother or search party to find him, he started walking. For over eighteen hours. Covering 14-20 miles. At the age of six.
Thirty-two years later, Cody believes that was the turning point of his life.
“‘Over the course of your life, you push through a lot of physical barriers,’” he says. “‘As you grow older, your first coach helps you break through barriers, and maybe in the military you learn to push through barriers or maybe in your first hard job. As a little kid, I had this opportunity to be tested and learn that there really aren’t any barriers. I think a lot of people figure that out. They just might not figure it out at six’” (via).
My favorite part about the article, however, was the discussion of guilt and responsibility.
“Marcie (Cody’s mother) never blamed herself for being a bad mom” the article reads, “which, let’s face it, would be the first accusation to pop up in online comments if this story happened today.” And it’s true. Cody’s mom, however, “never felt guilty for letting Cody and his sister play on the other side of the meadow from where she and a friend sat around the fire. “It’s just normal,” she says now. ‘Kids go off and play.’”
And I love that.
Jason Kottke does too, but with a little extra twist. He writes:
It’s a great story and a sharp rebuke of today’s helicopter parenting, not letting kids do their own thing, etc. I wonder about something though. We would think a lot differently about this tale if he hadn’t survived. If it had been a couple of degrees colder or if those coyotes had been a big hungrier or if he’d have turned a different way on that road, he might have died. Sheehy’s story is an example of survivorship bias. We hear of his adventure and how it transformed his life only because he survived, but it’s possible that nine out of ten kids in similar situations don’t survive…and we hear those tales only briefly and locally, not as features in national magazines (via).
No matter how this story turns out, someone will grab it and use it to feed their fears, or their desires. “See,” we say, “This is why I’m right and you’re wrong.” When, in reality, we’re both right, and both wrong. Depending on the vantage point. Or the outcome.
But Cody’s experience also teaches us a bit about the weight of responsibility and how it can change us.
“In my entire childhood,” he states, “I never felt it was anyone else’s fault. I felt responsible.” And because he felt responsible, because it was his mistake, it was also his responsibility to rectify the problem. So he did. Instead of waiting around or focusing on who did what wrong, he took action and ownership. He started walking.
Perhaps that is why he survived.
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