Don Quixote is a fictional character famous for fighting windmills and doing other absurd things. His basic story is one of taking a fantasy world and trying to imprint it onto the real world. The results are comedic for the outsider but almost tragic for Quixote himself. As I was reading his story in college, I always pictured him sitting Indian style in his armor with a child’s toy box trying to hammer the square peg into the round hole. It is easy to label Don Quixote as a “fool” but personally I identified strongly with the character and his trials. Around the time that I read the book, I was on my own Quixotic adventure that put my mental image of the world into question.
I am Peter Huryk III, named after both my father and grandfather. Due to my name, I have always identified very closely with my father. My parents met when my mother was going through a divorce and leading life as a single parent to my older brother. My father became the answer to her prayers. Within a short time, he was a husband to my mother and a father to my brother. This narrative was inside of my subconscious in college when the world offered me the perfect Quixotic situation.
At the time, I was taking a full course load in college, had a full time job and renting a townhouse with two friends. It was then that the universe served up a perfectly ridiculous challenge to my self-image. A young girl with two sons (2 & 1 years old) started working at the sub delivery place where I was employed. In short order, we ended up in a relationship. Unfortunately, the script was far more complicated than my father’s.
The custody of her children was being contested because she didn’t have a stable place for them to live. They had been nomads between different family members’ homes. So I took it upon myself to pay for an apartment for them. Every problem that the world and the situation served up, I responded with my knight in shining armor script. It made no sense but I pressed ahead anyway. At 21 years old, I was a full time student, full time employee, renting two apartments, caring for two kids and handling it all. Luckily the ridiculousness of the situation knew no bounds and she broke up with me. I remember the older boy balling the day that I left. He’d never done that before. It was as if he knew I wasn’t coming back. Getting into this situation was probably the worst decision of my life. It was foolish on so many levels and could have been long term disastrous. So it still feels odd to say that it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
In those few months, I figured out exactly who I was and what I was capable of. The script of my father was not my own. I needed to follow my own path for my own sake. It also let me know that I could handle almost anything. At 21 I had handled more weight from the world than I thought was possible. Although it was reckless and stupid to heap it upon myself, it didn’t crush me.
The stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves are extremely important. They, rather than conscious thought, will often make the decisions about what we will or will not do. So my suggestion is that you get your story straight. Who are you really? Or better yet, who are you ideally? If you are creating yourself (and you are), why not decide what it is that you want, need, value, love, without the interference of the world. Then when you see your round peg, you’ll put it in the right spot and leave the square ones for someone else.
Go be you today.