Wednesday, November 14, 2012

L is Life and Life is a Lesson

It has been a long day; you get home from work and wonder how you made it through without a major breakdown. Life was hard today. Or maybe you experienced a series of bad days; then again it could be one major letdown or problem that got to you.

Recently I saw a mother pushing a young child in stroller eating an ice cream cone and noticed the smile on his face. Did you ever wish that you could really remember life as a young child? No cares or worries except when the next meal is coming. Is someone going change my diaper? Everything is done for you, all you have to do pretend to cry or just have a sad face and bingo good things happen.

At some point while growing up we learn that those idyllic, lackadaisical days are gone. Realization comes gradually; slowly over time our expectations change. We learn that the lovely things of life are not going to be handed to us. Our discovery of the real facts of life, not the birds and bees lessons, dictates our path forward. An “ah ha” moment sets our future path. That event defines the years ahead.

Just before Veterans Day I reflected back on my “ah ha” moment. It was the winter of 1964 and I decided that continued attendance in college was Sisyphus-like, some successes and some failures. Without clear direction forward, without a real career path ahead I quit college. I had no clue where I was or where I was going.

My father’s response was simple, “Okay, now what?”

It was my life, my future, it was my choice. I returned to a company that I had worked for during the previous summer. The money was okay, but not a life-long job I wanted to continue. War loomed on the horizon; I still had no long term plans and had been reclassified as draft eligible. But I did know I didn’t want to be drafted into the military, so I enlisted in the army with some assurances that I would be trained in a technical field.

That decision changed my life. Army service was a million dollar experience that I wouldn’t give you a nickel to do again. As my life developed I’ve realized that those three years really developed my character, my ethics, world view and any number of other positive traits. After my service was completed I returned to work, then to college and earned two degrees.

Those three years helped me become a better college student, husband, father, teacher, and have more flexible nature. Each subsequent step moved me forward in a long trek of life. The hard logistics of life were made easier by lessons learned during life’s journey.

The path we take is a labyrinth, with twists, turns and a few dead ends. Allow yourself the latitude to change, modify and grow. I returned to college, quit one job and returned to the same company and made other changes without looking back. One change culminated in anger that slowly evaporated; lessons were learned again and now I am satisfied with my decision. One point I learned is that anger is not a good teacher nor is it a good companion for life’s journey.

Back up and start over. My life and actions may not be the model for everyone but it worked for me.

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  1. I agree that the path we take is a labyrinth, sometimes it is good to allow for change. I know several who had a one channel view of the road ahead and when it didn't work out they were devastated.

    I always encouraged my daughter to have a hobby, one that could become a career in the future, if need be.

  2. Be prepared for change, don't plan for it.

    I am on my next to last career change, the next one will be full retirement.

  3. Now that I think about the labyrinth it is not the right concept. A labyrinth has one way in and one way out, life is like a maze with twists, turns and deadends.

  4. I agree that for most people doing a little growing up before you go to college is a good idea, whether you do it in the military or elsewhere. But now the real question: how do you make retirement rewarding and purposeful?

  5. Life is preparation for retirement. So far I got a C minus in that department, still working.