Parrots Don’t Drink Tea

How we know that the choices we’re making are the right ones.

By Travis Heath

In a few short months will be the one year anniversary of when I moved into a small economy class house with a man and his birds. This was a relatively large endeavour being that I had only just recently travelled the 600 kilometre trek home, only to pack up and head back in the same direction not even a week later. Had you asked me then if I thought it was the right decision to move back, regardless of the fact that I was going against my gut instinct to stay home and regroup, I would have said yes, definitely and without question. If you were to ask me now if I felt it were the right decision, even though it caused me some of the worst emotional pain I’ve ever experienced, my answer would be irrevocably the same.

Because I’m better for it.

When I moved back to Thunder Bay on July 1st, 2014, I was totally unprepared for what grief the following four months were to bring. It’s safe to argue, I think, that no one is ever really ready for change in their life, whether they think they are or not. Even for creatures of change, those who embrace the constant movement of nature unfurling from chaotic events that connect and correlate, ebb and flow into a blissful line of unprecedented harmony, the drastic amendment of one’s life can be painful at best. As someone who is endlessly overcome with wanderlust, the insuppressible need to be in constant motion, it seems only natural that I would forgo my basic human need for security and peace of mind simply to satisfy my urge for adventure.

It may seem odd to some, and to others it may even seem preposterous that one would give up comfort to engage in something in which they haven’t even the slightest clue about where it might lead them in life. But in actuality, the need to move is about as primal as human nature gets. We crave different things, different people; if our lives become too stagnant too quickly, we get bored. It’s this need that has driven human evolution for hundreds of thousands of years, the need to discover, to create, to move. Some just don’t embrace the change as well as others, and that’s fine, just not for me.

I thrive on change. The problem is that I don’t want to know what’s going to happen next.

Of course I’m not impractical, I’m in fact very good at thinking rationally. I evaluate the things I have to do in order to get to where I want to go and I keep a list of both long and short term goals. I write them in bold, silver lettering on a piece of black bristol and hang it on my bedroom wall so I can see it everyday. It’s always been important to me to have a sense of direction in my life, and I like to go at a decent pace. However, how things happen and which order they happen in are of no importance to me. Whichever road I’m on is just fine. The main issue lies in my unfortunate tendency to analyze every event within my given circumstance to try and determine exactly which path I’m taking. This causes me to sometimes force myself to make counterintuitive decisions in efforts to expedite my journey more quickly.

Which is why I moved back to Thunder Bay. I had determined that the odds of my journey unfolding were greater in any place other than home. The inevitable irony of the situation is that, despite all efforts to get far away from my place of birth, I would soon end up back where I started. In the grand scope of things, staying home in the first place may have been the best choice. I had just graduated college and was burning away the remnants of my nest egg for which I had saved every cent over the previous summer. But even in light of all the things that have happened over the last year, I wouldn’t change my decision for anything because I might not have realized what I needed to do until much later. The notion of how the choices we make affect our lives is still all very convoluted and odd to me, but it’s alright, trial and error has done me well so far. After all, if it weren’t for my choices I would never have become acquainted with the parrot.

This parrot, by the way, drinks tea.

Her name is Kiwi. She lives in a large green cage placed so perfectly in the corner of the kitchen where I once lived. Her screech has a volume that is normally reserved for high-profile rock concerts, and her temperament is matched only by the unbridled wrath of a toddler who just had its favourite toy taken away.

As for me, I was this bird’s toy.

My roommate informed me that the previous owner’s husband was extremely abusive to the bird which caused it to become very aggressive, particularly towards men. I have no direct evidence to support this claim however the way that this bird interacted with people led me to fully believe that its previous life was unpleasant to say the least. She was prone to attack anything that moved. The only people who could even get close to her without her freaking out was my roommate, his girlfriend, and, oddly enough, myself.

In the mornings I would sit at the kitchen table, back turned, beside Kiwi’s open cage and drink my coffee. She would just sit there and observe me. I had no fear of this bird despite her mean disposition. She would sometimes blow kisses at me while tilting her head prompting me to scratch it, but that was all. This went on for weeks, until one day she leapt onto me and took a chunk out of my ear in an unprovoked attack.

I’m not going to lie, it scared the shit out of me.

I became skittish around Kiwi and would walk on eggshells whenever I needed to go into the kitchen as her aggression towards me became greater everyday. I recall once she flew down from her cage and chased me across the hall and up into my bedroom where I stayed until my roommate came home and put her back in her cage.

It was awful. I no longer felt safe in a place that was supposed to be my home away from home.

While all this was all going on I was struggling with unemployment as well as relationship problems with my then girlfriend. My life was spiralling out of control and I became deeply depressed. I felt that there was no way to get out of my circumstances. I’ll spare you the details of my emotional turmoil but believe me when I say that things were certainly going to come to a head, one way or another.

I had been in contact with my mother during this time, who had endured call after call of my hysterical and uncontrollable crying over several weeks. My mother is my saviour. She always has been and always will be. She has seen me through the worst times of my life and stuck by me through it all and this, of course, was no exception. After persistent coaxing and pleading, she eventually got me to come back home where I would be able to get back on my feet and continue my journey through life while healing in a safe environment.

On the day I left Thunder Bay, my roommate and I sat down at the kitchen table for the last time. We had always talked about a variety of issues: wars, economy, life. He inspired ideas and taught me a lot about how the world functions politically; he was great. While we sat there saying our goodbyes, our attention was drawn to Kiwi. She was blowing kisses and hanging upside down in her cage. My roommate laughed and it was at that moment when he said one of the most memorable things that anyone has ever told me. “It’s pretty easy to get caught up in your own self-pity from time to time, but at least you’re not a green and orange parrot stuck in a cage.” It was only a joke, but it has stuck with me for the last year and has helped me overcome my challenges in a big way. We laughed for a long time. We dried our eyes and rubbed our cheeks as the room fell silent and it was then that I realized the greatest truth that I will ever know.

Sometimes our circumstances become bleak and we feel as though there’s nothing we can do to change them. But we must carry on because there will come a time when we need to pick ourselves out from the gutters and move on to newer and better things. No matter how painful, no matter how many tears are shed, we won’t be stuck forever because we are not birds in a cage. We are human. And as humans we have choice. Choice to make ourselves better. Choice to learn from our mistakes. Choice to move on. And as we move on we will soon realize that, despite sometimes being awful and too much to bear, life will always lead us in the right direction; even if we’re not fully aware of it at the time. So if you ever feel like your life is hurtling out of control, think of a parrot drinking tea, and smile at the fact that anything can happen.

All you have to do is trust that the path you’re on will take you where you need to go, and don’t stop moving.