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Adapt or Die

The summer of 1999 was a turbulent one for me. My parents were recently divorced and we had moved in with my Grandma. This came with a new set of unclear expectations, unfamiliar routines, and questions that no one in my family seemed to have the answer to. Part of that routine meant visiting my Dad every other weekend at his new trailer home in a not-so-great part of Salem.

At first, it sucked. Dad didn't have any toys and after the fourth time watching the VHS box set of The 3 Stooges, my older brother Ben and I were bored. So Dad did what any parent did in the late 90's when their kids were bored, kicked us outside and locked the door.

We wandered the yard for a bit, digging holes and throwing dirt clods at each other, until we heard a sound in the woods behind the trailer park. Curious, we hopped the fence and made our way across the field the small patch of old Oak's left standing between developments. That is where we met Chad and Sean, two older boys that happened to live next door to my Dad.

They had an entire tree fort complex built out of whatever they could find. We'd stumbled into our own Neverland. Before we knew it, the sun was setting and we heard my Dad hollering for us. Before we left, Chad asked if we had played the new N64 game "Super Smash Bros." We shook our heads and he excitedly followed us home so he could ask our Dad if we could come play.

That night set the tone for the rest of summer as we logged countless hours playing Super Smash Bros. on N64. I found that if I was at Chad and Sean's house, my world was simple. I played video games and didn't have to think about anything else.

However, as soon as we left, life got hard again and I was reminded of the unclear expectations, unfamiliar routines, and unanswered questions all over again.

One night we made a bet to play until we could beat Chad. It was 2am and we hadn't beaten Chad once. Determined, but unsure how to progress towards our goal, Chad, in an almost Yoda fashion, looked at us and said, "You've been playing me the same way every game. Adapt or die."

The next game went the same as the previous 50, but after that I decided to switch it up. Instead of Link, I chose Kirby. Instead of mashing the A button, I started to roll. For the first time in my life, I beat Chad and despite my record being 1-150, I felt accomplished.

That feeling begin to vanish when we got back to Dad's, and begin to diminish further when Mom picked us up. The uncertainty was piling up again, squandering any feeling of accomplishment I'd mustered. Any time I'd felt this way before, I'd just endured it. Most often reacting by lashing out with anger or sadness towards my family. This time, I heard Chad's voice, "You've been playing the same way. Adapt or die."

I looked up to my Mom in the front seat and asked her, "What chores will we have when we get home?"

A little confused, she replied, "Why do you ask?"

"Just trying to change things up, get ready for it."

We can't predict what will happen in this life, but we can adapt to it.

Always fighting with your family? Try listening instead of speaking.

Struggling with addiction? Try a new routine.

Trouble making quality friends? Try changing your attitude.

Don't like where you're at? Try finding one good thing about it.

Those that adapt, thrive. Those that don't, don't survive. In the words of Chad, "Adapt or die."


Challenge one perspective you hold that you thought was set in stone this week.


Who is the most adaptable person you know? What makes them so adaptable?


“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” – Dolly Parton

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