As the axiom “Water under the bridge” implies, what is past is past.
However, there are times when we take a moment to contemplate the type of person we are, the life experiences that have tended to mold us, similar to a blob of clay on a pottery wheel. As the sculptor works with loving care, the object starts to take shape.
As I look back today, on the anniversary of my birth, I see distinct eras in my journey.
The first era was childhood, the time of innocence and happiness. My Mom and Dad were still together, my brother and I were best friends, and there were few worries. We had a great house, a summer place in Florida, and took annual family vacations.
The second era was adolescence, a time marked by negative change and insecurities. My parents divorced when I was eleven, my Dad went bankrupt, and I started working at twelve, first delivering newspapers, then as a busboy, and when I was old enough to drive, delivering pizza. My teen and high school years were very forgettable – I was not good at athletics and was considered a brain, so my friendships were few and far in between. I was insecure, torn between my divorced parents, and was a sponge for any acceptance and affection that I could find. I think I was sustained through this time by my membership in a youth group (DeMolay). I lived for the weekends, spending time with my Dad and brother (and later my grandmother Nan), attending youth group functions and camping on the weekends. Come the end of my Junior year, it all changed. I was as far as I was going to go in the youth group because college loomed on the horizon and I was working multiple jobs. I was so glad to get high school behind me and move on and out on my own.
The third era was a welcome respite – a molding period you might say. I thrived at the University of Illinois, finding new friendships, learning how to study and apply myself, trying new things and developing my own ideas. If I could do it over again, I think I would have studied a little less and experienced the experience a little bit more. From a personal perspective, this was a lonely time for me, and while my professional persona was becoming fully developed, my personal persona was becoming more and more skeptical – there were hurts and disappointments that would stay with me for a long time.
The next era was a time of samo-samo and some new challenges. One of the things I had to do was to learn to channel my smart-ass-tendencies that had carried me through high-school and college, because I soon found out that that did not work so well in a shirt-and-tie environment. I made some lifelong friends, developed a love for San Francisco, and found out that your past can catch up with you. My career was going fairly well, my personal life was really a downer – I was so insecure in this aspect of my life. My high-school sweetheart re-entered my life at this point, and I glommed on to this like a kitten to a teat. There were some really good times and some new friendships, children were born, houses were purchased, but there were dark times as well – my Dad passed away, we relocated across the country and then relocated several other times, and I became financially distressed. This is the era where I realized that if you are not happy, you cannot make anyone else happy, and I made the toughest decision of my life – to leave my marriage (the easy part), but that meant that my children would no longer be part of my day-to-day sustenance.
That brings us to the current era, a time when I have found true happiness and peace. I have been in my current job for almost eleven years, have found a soul mate in Beth, and live on the dream property that my Dad and I always talked about as I was growing up. Are there regrets, absolutely, one of the biggest ones being the involvement I have in my children’s life. But does that define me? The short answer is no, it does not.
From the Blog of DB (a quote from Jesse Jackson), “Some wise one once said that we should be pulled by our dreams not pushed by our memories.” So why this long winded entry? It is because the person that I am now does not reflect the person that I used to be in many ways. I am loved by a wonderful woman, confident in my capabilities and plans, as successful as I need to be to lead us on to the next era, and most importantly happier than I have ever been. I am defined by possibilities and opportunities, not by regrets and what could have been.
The next era, all I will say is that my role model is my Father-In-Law, who retired at 55 and has never looked back :o)