The Chronicles of ‘Peaking’ III: Inspiration

Before I got my current day job with IKEA, I worked at a high-end movie theater. There, I met a guy named Chance who was a lot like me. He was outgoing and funny, outwardly enthusiastic and upbeat, and both of us quickly became the go-to for welcoming audiences and introducing the films.

Working in a movie theater isn’t an easy gig. Even one with such a good reputation. Concessions is taxing, ticket-selling means standing in one place for eight hours, and cleaning the auditoriums is tedious and physically draining. If you have inexperienced and uncaring management, it is even more demoralizing than necessary.

One day, Chance tore his uniform shirt off, threw it behind the concession stand counter, and walked out bare-chested. He screamed as he left, causing the crowded room to stare in shock, “This place wouldn’t suck so bad if you were just nicer to people!”

No true words have been shouted in the lobby of a movie theater showing an Adam Sandler flick.

I saw Chance twice at IKEA. Both times, we stopped to chat for a while. He was a good guy, and we had a great time just catching up. Both times, he was with a young woman, and on their second trip, they were bubbling over with excitement. They had just gotten married that morning at the courthouse and were shopping for stuff for their new life together.

When he told me why they had decided to rush into an unplanned, ad-hoc wedding, I was a little shocked. You see, Chance had gotten a rather bad medical diagnosis, and in order for her to make decisions for his care, they had to be married. Despite his cheery disposition that day, Chance was embarking on a battle against advanced cancer.

I remember my dumb comment. He had long blond hair and a great beard. It was kind of his trademark, and I very naively said to him, “Aw, man. You’re going to lose all of your hair.” He didn’t say anything, but he visibly flinched in that moment.

I think we all have a sick fantasy. I know I have had it in the past. If I found out I only had x amount of time before I die, I would set aside all distractions and really start living for the things that matter. As you get older, your mortality becomes a more tangible inevitability, and we’re driven by this thought to spend less time in frivolous pursuits. This is why we all act like we’re invincible when we’re in our twenties, begin to settle down in our thirties, and have a crisis in our forties.

Chance was 26. A few days short of his twenty-seventh birthday, he was dead. I watched on social media as he slowly lost his battle and wasted away over a heartbreakingly short six months.

I was thinking of Chance when I was struggling to climb a mountain later that year. Stella and I had resolved to hike once a week in an effort to take better care of ourselves. And that is when the story that would become “Peaking” was born.

Chance, you were a beautiful soul, and you continue to be missed.
Sebastian Shepherd is the author of “The Ruins of Our Past,” which can be found here.

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