Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Two vignettes from sometime in the 60's.
In the first, I am a teenager sitting in the living room with my father. We are watching television. Someone is being interviewed. I cannot remember who it was, but he has just said, "I am trying to find myself."
My father's response, "Hmmph! You're right there. What's so hard about that?"
Being a teenager, I naturally thought that was an excellent remark, although I never would have let my father know that. Yet, at the same time, I was in a quandary because I too was trying to find myself and wasn't sure where to look.
In the second, , I am driving around Pensacola, Florida, my hometown. I am listening to one of my favorite radio commentators, Earl Nightingale, whose motto was, "We become what we think about."
A listener to his program has asked the question, and I will get as close as possible to the question and the answer as I remember them, "I am about to enter college. How do I choose the career and course of study that will bring me success and the most wealth and pleasure from life?"
Earl Nightingale's answer, "Find what you love to do so much that you would do it even if nobody paid you, and make that your life's work. You will be happy to go to work every day. Your love of what you do will make you become the absolute best at doing it. People will see this and soon see you as someone who cares and is knowledgeable, and this will further your career more than anything else and you will rise each day eager and anxious to get to work."
Two vignettes and now a story.
In Pensacola, Florida in the 60's, a young man who wanted to write and who loved literature and the flow and sweep, mystery and mastery of words, wanted to know the same things. His advisors told him, "The money's in accounting. If you want to be successful and wealthy, go into accounting." So, he got an accounting degree.
Back to the present. The ex-accountant, ex-optical lab manager, ex-soldier, ex-restaurant manager has, after 45 years, "found himself". Oddly enough, his father's remark was on the money. He was right there all the time, but he went looking everywhere except within himself. Earl Nightingale's advice fits in as well. The ex-accountant who wanted to write, but only wrote instruction manuals, reports, and business letters, now gets to write every day...and loves it!
Rich? Not as some people would judge it, but every day, I get up looking forward to putting down the words rattling around in my head. When do I work? I am never quite sure, because when I am doing something that does not appear to be "work", I am absorbing, enjoying, stroking, and massaging all that happens around me. It all becomes a part of me and may eventually reappear as a story, a poem, an article, a comment, or as a thought in an email to my friends or family.
Now let's talk about reality. My father, 4F in World War II because of an eye injury, was a masterful concert violinist. When he married my mother, he was faced with a choice of earning a living and supporting a family, or making beautiful music. He was unable to find himself, that man who could support his family with his music. He chose one, support his family, over the other. He did a good job of it, but it wasn't unusual on a Sunday to find him wistfully playing recordings of beautiful music. He never touched a violin again.
I wish he could have done the thing he loved rather than bending over a table at Pensacola Naval Air Station for 30 years, repairing aircraft instruments. I wish he could have played the violin or conducted an orchestra for all the years of his life, rising each day to do what he loved rather than putting on his Archie Bunker hat and going to the Navy base with his carpool.
I am proud of my father. He had his faults, like any man, but he tried to do the right things for his church, his community, and his family. However, I wish that he had "found himself" and lived up to the desires and dreams of his heart.
My life has proven that, until the end, at least, it is never too late. Maybe the other lives I have lived were necessary to prepare me for this incarnation as "writer". I don't think so. As much as they have given me, I think my life would have been happier and more productive had I done the thing that I so longed to do rather than following paths which went places I really didn't want to go.
We only have this one life to live and there are no guarantees but one. It is best to choose to make your world what you want it to be before you have no choices left.
My father was right. We don't really have to go very far to find ourselves. We just have to look inside and find out what we really want to be. Not "have". To be. Once you know what you want to be, then work to become that and one day you will turn a corner and "find yourself" right where you were all along.
Donovan Baldwin is a Texas writer and a University of West Florida alumnus. He is a member of Mensa and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service. In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory positions. However, his main pleasures have long been writing, nature, and fitness. In the last few years, he has been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on subjects such as health, fitness, yoga, writing, the environment, happiness, self improvement, weight loss, and pets, of all things.
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