Shortly after I watched a dolphin arc through the air above the blue, blue waters off the shore of Daytona around 7:00 this morning, my attention was captured by the simple elegance and innate majesty of a V of nine brown pelicans. They didn’t even know the alphabet, yet they adjusted their ranks to maintain that perfect letter from one end of the skyline to the other.
Wow. Warm and fuzzy inspiration from Papa God’s magnificent creation spread from my broken right big toenail to my humidity-frizzied hair tips.
Then came the wannabe platoon. Just behind that gloriously regimented squadron flew five additional pelicans who were trying their durndest to emulate their role models. Four actually did pretty well, forming a perfectly straight line, tipping a wing here, snagging an up-current there to tweak their position and maintain a nice tight line.
Enter Herbie. I couldn’t help but remember that poor little discombobulated elf from the animated TV Christmas show, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” You know, the one who never quite fit in at Santa’s workshop and ran away to find himself.
Well, try as he might, this avian Herbie could not toe the line. He just didn’t fly like his biddy buddies. Maybe they were relatives or eggmates and their mothers made them, but the other birds in the group actually spread apart to make room for him in the middle of their rank and file. Sadly, Herbie dipped and weaved and flapped when he should have glided and nearly body-slammed the bird beside him.
It made me laugh. But I doubt Herbie thought it was funny.
When the others finally gave up on him and closed the gap to box him out, Herbie still didn’t give up. Despite their obvious snub, he tagged himself onto the end of the line, bobbing and fluttering like a spastic dot at the bottom of an exclamation mark.
Then they landed gracefully in the water to enjoy some fishy breakfast and Herbie plopped down about six feet away, still trying to be part of the group, though it was quite evident he was an outcast.
Boy could I identify with Herbie. Can’t you? I think we all feel like we don’t belong at some point in our lives. That we’re different. That we’re misfits. Maybe we’re not overtly rejected by our peers, but we know deep down that we’re the disgruntled dentist wannabe among happy elves.
I feel like that in my writing life sometimes. Like I’m the wobbling dot beneath the exclamation mark of successful authors and speakers with whom I’m trying to fit in. It may look like I belong, but deep down I know better. I’m just a wannabe.
But you know what? I don’t think that’s really such a bad thing. Being a Herbie keeps us striving to improve ourselves, to never stay complacent. To reject rejection. To keep practicing our dipping and weaving so that we can fly in formation when we want to, and not be ashamed to be the maverick when we don’t.
So here’s to all the Herbies of the world! Are you one of us?