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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Commentary

An answer for everything
Famed BU alumnus Roy grips PC students’ minds, spirits

I made my way down to Slavin Center Wednesday evening in a collegiately conventional muddle. I had an 80-plus page reading assignment to chew up and digest, a weighty essay project lodged in a pothole, and an itch to try and make headway on my next couple of Friar Hockey reports.

Upon leaving, after listening to guest speaker Travis Roy –who for a puckheaded audience especially on this coast needs no introduction- my psyche had been Zambonied, in terms of both weight and sense of refreshment.

The vast bulk, if not the entirety, of Wednesday night’s audience long knew the Travis Roy saga, though it is understandably reiterated as the ex-BU Terrier pens his new diary as a motivational speaker and paralysis research activist.

Watching the introductory video to Roy’s speech, a handful of viewers gasped at the 12-year-old highlight of his headfirst collision as though it were live. By the time the brief reel was winding down and Roy approached the stage, some faces were sniffling and streaming already.

But one of the points that Travis’ father, Lee, made in the video would be verified with no breathers for the next hour: not a snippet of the younger Roy’s character has been altered by what swatted and ousted his playing career on October 20, 1995.

All through his morally incomprehensible trials, Roy has never ceased to present himself as a high-spirited young man. And for the duration of Wednesday’s lecture, he upheld –through a solid rotating unit of explicit and implicit diction- the notion that his values have never changed. Rather, they have just found wings in new venues.

Indeed, Roy’s habit of incessant goal-setting, which he admitted to not picking up on until he had started high school, was first employed in the suspected fields –the rink and the classroom. Later, he said, in therapy, he was raising a bar with everyone from scuba-diving instructors to hunting enthusiasts as he began to restore a normal, interactive life.

The new wave of ambition, Roy noted, served as “a reality check…but the great part about it was I got that little sense of satisfaction,” just as he had when he hacked at his pre-season checklist of hopeful hockey stats.

Whatever he is aiming at, he went on to state that a self-assured sense of pride is his daily paycheck.

“It’s knowing at the end of the day that you gave it your all. And that’s all you can ask,” he said.

Even as Roy rolled out a piece-by-piece account of the week and day that his stint as one of Professor Parker’s Pupils began and ended –another point where tissues became a requirement in the audience- he revived the declaration of achievement he had uttered to his father that evening.

Melancholy would be a trite, not to mention scantily profound, assessment of the buildup to Roy’s first and only shift and the aftermath of his horrid accident. Yet the fragment of the story that still has not attracted any moths is that he summoned his father to ice level to proclaim, more than anything, that he had made it.

Even as he was also stressing the “trouble” he was in, Roy recalled, he was resolute that eleven seconds worth of Division-I hockey accounted for more than zero. And even in the subsequent, unscheduled new chapter, he has run a tireless mill that not only converts negative energy, but unearths other principles that he shared in his talk.

Both his official website and the latter stages of his speech state: "Some challenges we choose, while other challenges choose us. The question is whether or not we conquer the challenges life presents us or do we surrender to them."

For instance, with the challenge that comes with his change in appearance and activity, Roy has adopted a simple, though gripping angle on respect for others. “When you meet someone new,” he suggested to his listeners and adding an array of diverse traits one might display, “you give them your utmost respect from the start.”

If I fused all of what I heard correctly, anyone has the privilege of taking any moment for a clean slate. I have heard driving discourses similar to this more times than I can count, but never from someone who had to gnash and grind through so much just to conceive and deliver such a stimulating sermon.

So now I have a vague, though indubitably existent sense that I can come away from the personal items listed in the lead paragraph satisfied. And hopefully, this time, the too-often-faded lessons that Travis Roy refreshed for us will have a full-time spot on our perspectives’ roster.

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