Lead Role in a Cage

The details seem vivid in my mind, though I’m sure a few decades have added some fuzzy exaggeration.

I had a Stussy hat on, pulled down real low over my eyes. A long-sleeve long john type shirt, kind of a cream color that looked like it hadn’t been washed in a few weeks, it likely hadn’t. A Mossimo plaid flannel, tied around my waist.

I opened my Discman, pulled out the case from my Jansport backpack, the one that was only ever slung over one shoulder, never both, and inserted my Nirvana CD.

You know the one, with the little naked kid swimming underwater for a dollar bill.

The big, foam, fuzzy plug in headphones got slipped over my ears, and I escaped into my brace-face happy place.

I smelled like teen spirit.

My hip hop phase quickly replaced grunge for me, after all, I was hopscotching across culture for acceptance, approval, and applause. At 41, there’s still plenty of those same desires coursing through me.

But the grunge phase left an imprint, for sure. Pearl Jam. Stone Temple Pilots. Soundgarden, Counting Crows. 311. Alanis Morissette. Blind Melon. REM. Pink Floyd.

Honestly, that’s still some damn good music to listen to, especially when there’s a fire going.

Anyway, it’s funny the things you halfway remember or have some loose association to that come crashing back in today life when you hear a song, or someone says a lyric.

A few weeks ago, that very thing happened.

I was sharing the ups and the downs, the wins and the struggles, the momentum rolling up, and the bottom feeling like it may fall out.

Life, it seems, is no stranger to gusting winds and shifting sands.

A good friend, in my sharing, said, “Yet still, isn’t it better to have a walk-on part in the war…”

I knew instantly how to finish his thought.

“Instead of a lead role in a cage.”

We have this debate going on in our home.

One of our daughters, who shall remain nameless, begged and pleaded and saved for a bird. A beautiful bird. A cool bird. He has a nice fancy cage. All the water and food he could ever want. He whistles back song lyrics we whistle at him. He sure seems kinda happy, with a pretty safe, predictable, good life.

Said daughter is done with him though. Ready to pass him along to a grandma or the pet store.

We have these beautiful trees behind our home. I keep mostly joking we should open his cage door, and let him go be a bird.

Our kids think I’m evil when I suggest it. Maybe I partially am. I don’t know.

But what I do know is he wasn’t created to sit in the damn cage. Whistling his half-hearted songs back to us.

As Pink Floyd, Teddy Roosevelt and Brene Brown have called out from the sweaty, dirty, and blood-stained arena floor, while critics and cynics chirp from their perches, it’s much harder to be a walk-on in the war.

But perhaps it’s a more meaningful life than sitting safely in that cage.

Strive valiantly. Dare greatly. Don’t exchange. Smell like teen spirit.

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