Where has the time gone? One year since I created and published my first entry. At first, this was just a vehicle to keep me writing in between semesters in my junior year at California State University, Sacramento (Sac State). I didn’t really expect too much interaction from anyone and was quite flattered when I received my first real comment on January 6, 2006. It was the trickle that would become the flood.
I currently generate around 20 hits per day and get frequent comments from regulars and strangers alike. Each has meaning – I get excited every time I get an email alert telling me there is a new comment. I don’t necessarily write for the feedback, but if my words have touched someone else, then I have done my job. My writing is generally centered on my experiences and perceptions. I don’t try to be controversial, but I don’t avoid controversy either. Above all else, I try to be as objective as possible.
Those that regularly frequent this space know that I am in the final stages of completing my bachelor’s degree. It’s something I started more than 25 years ago – hence the title, The 25 Year Plan. In this space I have documented not so much the struggles and challenges of being a mid-40s undergraduate, but rather the essence of the experience. Not just the experience of trudging through years of school, but many of the other life experiences along the way.
I should add as an editorial note, nothing here has been very much planned. The vast majority of these pieces are written in their entirety in one sitting, usually in no more than a couple of hours. However, typos and ambiguities are repaired as they’re discovered… sometimes weeks or months later.
I always knew that I could write well. Even in junior high school and high school, where math, not English, was my strong subject, my writing always scored high marks. It was, however, an unwanted art. I not only underappreciated this gift, I completely turned my back on it for years and years in pursuit of a more “suitable” image/profession/identity. As a result, I never really knew myself. I could not and would not express myself. I denied my own existence in favor of a perceived image of what I thought others expected, what I imagined society required and one I was incapable of sustaining.
When I first embarked on my journey into the world of higher education, I knew a few things. I knew I couldn’t draw. I knew I couldn’t sing. I knew I couldn’t paint. I knew I had no musical or artistic talent whatsoever. I knew it. I also knew that I was pretty good at math and I was kind of into computers in their very early stages of consumerism. I had a Commodore 64 and was “online” before the Internet was even available to the masses. My dad is a Ph.D. chemist. It all looked pretty clear to me. It was my destiny that I would go into the sciences.
I couldn’t get into it. It was like I was mimicking someone else. I was stumbling around the grownup world only a child in a man’s body. It didn’t last. I returned home, still not having any real direction, but found employment at a time when the tech industry was booming. I rode its coattails for a long time. I found a “her,” we had a few of “them” and all that was left was a white picket fence.
However, like so much else in my brief history up until that point, it was not to last. In the early nineties, I became the single parent of three small boys, still feeling, and in many respects acting, like a kid myself. As I grew and the boys grew with me, I changed careers several times, moved a few times and finally, on October 17, 2000, everything came to a screeching halt. I nearly died that day and because I didn’t, I had ample time to think about my life for the previous almost 38 years.
At the time, not much made sense. After I understood what had happened (and why) weeks had passed and although I didn’t yet know it, there were many more weeks to come. I was waffling between gratitude and anger: gratitude because I was still alive and anger for the same reason. It was not a happy time, but I survived and today the ill effects are minimal.
Near-death experiences are often related in spiritual terms. The out-of-body experience, the great “white light” or the speaking with the dead – I have a take on all of these very personal interpretations, but there is a much more concrete residual effect. It is an attitude. I have become me. I really didn’t plan to; I didn’t even know that I wasn’t me. I think maybe it’s because I had nothing more to lose – I almost lost it all. And it’s interesting that it didn’t hit me as some blinding flash of light. I didn’t wake up from that haze and think to myself, “Oh yea! That’s the secret to life.”
Later, in my attempt at re-education one more time, I was tested proficient enough to enroll in an English writing honors course (freshman comp.). I threw caution to the wind and took it. And I got an “A.” And I liked it. And I liked my writing. And others did too. And I had an “art.” This no-talent, stumbling, bumbling, albeit nice guy, that had no identity to hang his hat on suddenly found that he too was blessed with a talent. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since then either, but that’s enough for now. I followed enough tangents already!