There's a large statue of a dinosaur, specifically a T. rex, outside the University of Wyoming Geological Museum. Legend has it (according to anxiety-ridden, sleep deprived college students) that if you manage to throw a pine cone into the T. rex's open mouth you'll get all A's on your final exams. I tried, just for the hell of it, but was unsuccessful at adding my pine cone to the small pile made by uber-lucky pine cone throwers. It's a surprisingly difficult thing to accomplish. But I can see why one would be tempted to spend a fairly substantial chunk of time lobbing pine cones at a statue, rather than studying. It's a bit like playing the lottery so one can quit one's dreadful job rather than filling out job applications in search of a more fulfilling life. There's a temptation to believe in legends and luck over one's own ability.
This morning Micah and I took my uncle and aunt and two cousins on a tour of the UW campus. This, of course, included the ritual of throwing pine cones into the T. rex's open mouth. Since none of us are college students hoping to make straight A's, the stakes were changed. My cousin's pine cone became a wish for entrance into the college of her dreams. I cheered my cousin on (and her dad who threw pine cones on behalf of her college dreams).
"The people from Pixar visited this museum while making The Good Dinosaur ," I said to my aunt Diane as we watched the ritual.
"Oh, really?" she responded and then turned back to watch her family throw pine cones.
I wasn't sure if she understood the magnitude of what she was hearing. Pixar's presence on campus was as good as any big name celebrity. Though admittedly no one actually knew they were on campus until after they were gone (it hadn't occurred to anyone at the museum that this might be cause for celebration or publicity). Micah and I still like to throw Pixar's name around. It makes us feel some tiny inkling of connection to the masters of animation. Eventually a pine cone made it into the T. rex's mouth but I can't remember who threw it. My mind must of have wandered onto other things, like the shameful realization that I still haven't seen The Good Dinosaur.
When we said our goodbyes I was relieved my cousin could go back to Nebraska knowing one of her pine cone's now sits comfortably in the T. rex's mouth. I know what it is to want something so badly, even as one is faced with unlikely odds that it will actually come true. I recently pined for a writing gig that seemed one giant shot in the dark. So I did exactly what my cousin did and hoped that legend, or luck, or my mom's and aunt Marie's potent prayers, would somehow make it come true. And it did come true. I got that writing gig. But I'm beginning to see that the most important part of the process was first and foremost learning to finally (after nearly four decades on this planet) believe in my own abilities.
Why is it easier to believe in a ritual concocted by college students (quite possibly drunk ones) than it is to believe in ourselves? I wish instead of cheering for my cousin's pine cone I would have told her that I believe in her. She's an exceptionally talented young woman who has much to offer the world and I have every faith that she will get into the college of her dreams. As for the T. rex, well it's extinct, and that's exactly what I'd like to see happen with all my self-limiting, self-doubting beliefs.