I remember my father asking that question.
We were walking down the side walk, my father and I. He was younger than I am today. He and mom had driven down from central Indiana and we (my family and I) had arrived from the upper Midwest, to visit his mother, my grandmother, in southern Illinois. We had finished eating, decided it was then time for a walk. We walked and the talk turned to getting older, when to know it was time to move on in life? When was the right time to down-size to smaller living quarters, assisted living or whatever? As I thought about how older people are no longer able to do certain manual tasks, my youthful know-it-all’ness responded, “you’ll just know”. Fast forward almost 20 years.
I remember my father asking that question, “how’d I get here?”, as he dozed off in the chair in front of the TV. His health was failing, but he would sit and watch CNN News for hours. In his youth he was a strong thin man, a fighter pilot wanna-be in WWII. He almost got his wings, but broke his neck in a swimming accident a week before graduation. After a miraculous recovery, they sent him back, but not to pilot training. Concerned about his being able to pilot after breaking his neck, he became Welding Instructor and a Drill Instructor, state side, during the big war.
“How did I get here?” We wondered what he meant. Was he referring the chair, the house they lived in, his finances or life in general.
I have now passed the half way point of my sixth decade, and my question has become, “How did get here?” I understand now, what my father was asking. Let me reflect.
Early in my high school days, it was realized that I didn’t work well with my hands, so I had better start using my head, college prep was my avenue of study. However, my head didn’t function very well either, but I plugged along. Barely making it into college’s front door, I wandered around five or six courses of study, trying to find something I could wrap my head around. I majored in minors. I think I have minors in history, chemistry, math, economics and accounting. People often wonder how I know so little about so much.
Upon graduating, I still had no idea what I wanted to do. Job offers from Alcoa and the University of Michigan’s business office didn’t excite me. I chose the path of State Government, becoming an auditor. In that capacity my assignments required relocating to Indianapolis, South Bend and even out of state for a while, returning home to head up a division of 300+ people.
A couple of times during this career, I had attempted to “jump ship” and move into a CPA firm, but was always told that I had stayed too long in government to be marketable. The state job was good, but government never paid industry equivalent. Often I would feel sorry for myself, thinking I wasn’t doing enough for my family and that I was stuck on a course I could not change. After 33 years I looked about and realized my job was done, my work completed, at least as far as I could take it. My early dreams included retirement at 50, but there are no golden parachutes as a government employee.
So as I said, I am little beyond half way through my sixth decade, and now I ask, “How’d I get here?”
“They” say, life is made up of a series of choices. As I look at a some people around me, I can see how their choices were not in their best interest. Yet, I look back on my choices and wonder. What was it that made me chose this or that direction? Bad? No, my choices were not bad, but could they have been better? Maybe, if nothing else, at least different. But could they really have been different? I admit, that as I look back, I wonder if the major choices in my life had already been made for me? The problem with that thinking, is a brush with demoralization; the opportunity to believe you are worthless, or useless. Worthless? No! This can not be true, for all of the entire history of the past has marched forward to bring ME to where I am today.
As I look back, there are 10’s of 10’s or hundred’s, maybe even thousands for events that took place to bring me to where I am today. It must have been necessary, for me on this journey to have touched the life of someone. William Penn said it best; “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness or abilities that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Maybe how I got here isn’t the question, but what did along the way is.