Stranger in a Strange Land: The Ticks of Life

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Ticks of Life

Somewhere along the overgrown and annoyingly buggy Eagle Scout Trail, deep in the outer trenches of the Mines of Spain, it bites me. I feel the sharp puncture of its needle-like nose as it rudely violates the sovereignty of my lower right calf. I stop and look down. Too late. A disgusting parasite is now enjoying the sweetness of my blood.

As I carry the quickly inflating tick back towards the car, I think of the miles I have hiked in these woods through the various stages of my life. As an elementary kid I spent my summers catching bugs to add to my obviously geek-related yet nonetheless prize-winning bug collection. In high school I climbed to the top of Horseshoe Bluff to dwell within the loneliness of teenage angst. My legs still ache from the half-marathon, cross-park hike my youngest brother and I did during one college break. And here I am today, in my latest reincarnation of myself, still hiking, my past personas, like a tick, still firmly attached.

I stop and drink some lukewarm water. My eyes wander towards the tick. It is still attached, sipping contently from the straw of my veins. I hike on.

My mind returns to thinking of the many times I have reinvented myself, making my life one of constant inner-exploration and continual self-discovery. For example, there was the science geek child, the aspiring artist kid, the endurance-sport athlete, the student, the politician, the hippie, the preppie, the lawyer…
Since moving home I find myself unable to escape the attachments of the past. When I run into old acquaintances, I am instantly identified by whom I use to be. The Nicks of the past somehow stay attached to the Nick of the present. They are blood-sucking ticks.

Perhaps the most infamous of my many past-selves is who shall be known as the “hippie, tree-hugging, bed-wetting, knee jerking, and bleeding heart liberal Nick”. And although this Nick, with his shoulder length hair, Amish inspired beard, tie-died shirt and too many causes to count on one hand, may be buried in the recesses of my mind, he is forever attached.

Maybe this inability to become unattached from one’s past is part of living in a small town. Yet, regardless of where you live, can you really escape your past? Are we not just an accumulation of who we were? Does the past not remain attached because the present is nothing more then the sum of our past?

As I contemplate the best way to remove the tick, I sense a resurfacing of the science-geek Nick. Walking past a rugged side trail I feel triathlete Nick begin to stir. In the distance I hear the faint sound of a chain saw and am suddenly possessed by the long lost urge to hug a tree.

Back home, I pry the tick from my skin and watch him swirl down the drain. I feel a pathetic sense of pity. For like a tick, without the attachment, I could not be.


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