Big fish stories are common place among fishermen. They’re the slight fib, a skewed truth, an intentional misrepresentation of facts to enhance ones status or rating among other fishermen. “If yours was big, mine was bigger,” as it may be said. But ordinarily, fishing (and the fish being caught) can only be as big as the true genetics of the species being pursued. An average size, a average value, ordinary… until the story makes them extraordinary.

In the 2003 movie “Big Fish”, Tim Burton directs an amazing tale of a father on his deathbed who’s stories were a little hard to believe and a son who struggles to find the truth. Fanciful tales of carnies, mermaids and circus freaks, and a life lived among them that, well, seemed like just big fish tales. But as the movie progressed, you learn that perhaps there was truth to his father’s extraordinary tales. In fact, through his fathers eyes, everything that would be ordinary to most WAS extraordinary to him. Allow me to introduce the extraordinary parts of a life that seems generally ordinary. My life is full of the extraordinary, at least to me.

I met three movie stars in the course of my childhood, two professional wrestlers, and I went to high school with one of America’s all time best Rock and Roll drummers. But isn’t one of these people enough to a kid? Seems pretty extraordinary…

As an adult, my perception of extraordinary just got bigger. I touched the soil of four continents, defended two countries in war (one of which, Korea, was in a fifty year old stalemate when I did), and traveled our own beautiful country from coast to coast. I surfed and spear fished off the North Shore of Hawaii, swam off of both the California and Florida coasts, rode a city train through scenic parts of Boston, and listened to the exotic sounds made by the insects on a balmy summer night in Kentucky. I’ve watched the sun kiss the Arizona sky at daybreak and walked the streets that were the marching routes where a civil rights revolution began in Alabama. Are any one of these events extraordinary? To someone who grew up in one place, it is…

I’ve experienced the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing, directly impacted by the terror of the attack on 9/11, and had given the support needed for one of the world’s worst tsunamis. I’ve watch history unfold before my eyes and knowing my place in time, it was extraordinary. I’ve lived pain I never thought I’d endure and was forever changed in so many ways. I’ve even enjoyed the company and a few drinks with a serial killer, long before he would ever be known or even caught, without ever having a clue about him. In hindsight, learning of his acts and knowing I experienced him in the wild makes me fortunate…

Which leads me to my last tip of the hat to the extraordinary in seemingly ordinary form… Prison. While it’s a given that fame and even infamy exist here, the extraordinary lies in the people who’s lives are remarkably different. I call a history making revolutionary for trans rights advocacy, a sister. A mathematician who published solutions for centuries old continued fractions, a brother. A life coach who took National Public Radio by storm, my family. Authors, professors, entrepreneurs, I’ve enjoyed them all. The things that are extraordinary that I’ve seen and done in prison may be simply ordinary in many circles, but the beauty is in how I had to be here, in a prison, to experience the value of them. To me, that’s extraordinary.

All the fish in my life are giants and all my ordinaries are ordinarily extraordinary. It makes me love the life I’ve uncovered in my search for its purpose. But if you look carefully, all our live’s contain the elements for a great “big fish” story that is so very real and true to each one of us…

by Rory Andes

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Rory Andes 367649
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