In a recent speech at a graduation, British comedian Tim Minchin gave the following advice: “be passionate about a pursuit of a short term goal.” If I think about what characterizes truly extraordinary people, the intense desire to achieve a goal is an important factor. We may not understand that goal but we admire the drive and dedication.
This summer, I popped up to Portland, Oregon, a city that I left some 28 years ago to immigrate to Israel and where I had left beyond several good friends. An opportunity arose, a translation certification test, to see long, lost friends. In planning the trip, I discovered that I actually had lost a friend, to cancer some 15 years ago. It saddened and saddens me both because she died young, in her forties, a tragedy in any case, and because I had lost a kind of sister, a kindred soul, whom I was so looking forward to catching up on life and rekindling the connection.
Googling for any records, I noticed that Sarah J. Wrench, my friend, was invisible, i.e., with no records or pictures besides in regards to the book she got published. I would like to fill that gap. She was an extraordinary person in an extra-ordinary way. As Frank Sinatra would say, she did her own way. She adored opera and travelled to San Francisco once a year to catch several operas each time. She even wrote a fantasy book based on opera characters, which she got published – The Duke of Sumava (1997), an achievement in itself. She loved Balkan folk dance and danced with all her heart. Most of all, her brain was extremely sharp and imaginative, going down the roads less traveled. In the eight years I knew her, we never had a boring conversation. We shared a love of puns and dance as well as an appreciation of each other as humans. Finding a heart-mate is complicated but attainable. Finding a soul mate is a rare phenomenon. In short, Sarah was not a conventional person but an extraordinary individual and willing to pay to the price for that.
As the speaker said, micro ambition often makes the man, in this case the woman. Sarah invested her ultimately short life into her passions, ignoring what others would think or say she should do. She lived, not merely existed. Albeit very belatedly, I say goodbye to a good friend and regret not having picked up the phone to have a chat when I could have. To paraphrase a well known expression, it is even worth doing passionately things that are not worth doing in the opinion of others.