Saturday, February 10, 2007


I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I can’t remember having any real dreams or aspirations. I guess I thought that my life would just sort of materialize for me - unfold before me, as it were. When I originally went away to college in 1983, it was just to change something. Anything. I didn’t know what; my young life had come to a veritable dead-end. I thought that since I was kind of into computers, computer science was my calling. As it turned out, not only was it not my calling, nothing was. I was not yet willing to exercise the patience, the tolerance or the dedication necessary to be successful at anything.

After two years of underachievement, I was “asked” to leave San Diego State University. I returned home and went to work full-time while attending a vocational school at night. I earned a technical certification in microwave electronics. That trade school was the first time I remember having an enjoyable educational experience. It was reflected in my grades and the employment it secured me. Looking back, it was a turning point in my attitude toward education - I have enjoyed it and done well ever since. However, although that career had a great deal of potential for a while, like so many other industries dependent upon military spending, the bottom fell out with the end of the Cold War.

By this time I was married with young children. I was making good money; I had changed jobs before the military electronics bust came - I was doing pretty well. But like it always did, everything eventually fell apart. My marriage ended. I changed careers a few times and all the while, I never really knew what I was doing or where I was going. It didn’t help that I had absolutely no plan, little ambition and not much confidence either. I’ll not go into the years of tedium and tumult, but that I survived has shown that, either by fortune or nature, I posses a quality that has proven to be incredibly valuable.

te • nac • i • ty [tuh-nas-i-tee]
the quality or property of being tenacious.
[Origin: 1520–30; L ten ā cit ā s equiv. to ten ā c- (s. of ten ā x) holding fast, deriv. of tenére to hold + -it ā s -ity]

te • ne • cious [tuh-nay-shuhs]
1. holding fast; characterized by keeping a firm hold (often fol. by of): a tenacious grip on my arm; tenacious of old habits.
2. highly retentive: a tenacious memory.
3. pertinacious, persistent, stubborn, or obstinate.
4. adhesive or sticky; viscous or glutinous.
5. holding together; cohesive; not easily pulled asunder; tough.

It’s a characteristic that can be spun in a number of positive as well as negative ways. The bottom line is that I’m a survivor and I don’t easily - or apparently, naturally - give up. I’m not sure where it came from, but I’d say it’s at least as much experiential as it is genetic - as much attitude as environment. Enduring pain, both physical and emotional, became my badge of honor. Reigning in tenacity so that it provides the drive and fortitude… the focus needed to achieve a long-term goal has historically been a problem. Often that energy has resembled nothing more than so much white noise - flailing about and expending vast amounts of energy while getting little actually done.

I guess that same pain that I so closely identified with - that defined me - finally became too large a burden to bear. Through a series of events that I of course never saw coming, I was forced to accept that something was not working. All I ever wanted was a little peace, to be happy for some reasonably sustained period of time. I wanted to stop fighting and enjoy life - not just endure it. I didn’t know it, but I always had all I needed to create that reality. I just had to focus it. I don't need to be all things all the time. Today, I am enough.


Paste said...

Good for you, I've been made redundant twice in the last year and I've just got a better job than either of the ones I've lost. You and I have what I call -'bouncebackability!'
Here from Michele's.

carmilevy said...

After being on the receiving end of my third straight corporate buyout, I discovered that a strong sense of self-worth could take me a long way.

Life seems to test the best folks the hardest, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Very true. When they make me talk to newly hired people in my company, I always tell them tenacity is the #1 thing which has put me where I am. There are terrible calls all the time, where you think 'I can't possibly fix this or do anything for this customer,' but having the tenacity to do it or make sure the customer gets to who they do need to talk to in order for what needs to be done to get done is the reason I'm still there after 5+ years! (I also happen to think that my un-pleasant marriage would have ended a lot sooner if not for both my own & my ex's stubbornness- I agree that it's not always a good thing!)

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Very Very interesing post, Mike...And such a great great place to "be"...Congratulations on loving and respecting you!
I understand all about tenacity, and that it can serve one well---wherever it comes from.

Michele sent me by this afternoon...!

Don said...

Hmmm, and I thought I was the old man on the campus when I got a Comp Sci BS in 1978 at the age of 30. Congratulations on nearing your goal. Don't lose that focus & keep on keeping on. I look forward to reading your insightful political barbs in my newspaper (St Pete Times) soon.

G. Nat Salpigga said...

Thanks for your visit to Kaizen earlier it was nice to read a comment from someone who shared my appreciation for Rush from the same time period.

Good for you in hanging in there throughout it all. Good luck in finishing your undergraduate degree. Michele sent me.

Anonymous said...

There is no timeline for knowing who and what you will become. Those that believe that it has to occur at a given time are sure to be disappointed.

I think where you "are" is just perfect.

kenju said...

I think you were looking for contentment (as opposed to happiness), and we all create and focus on that reality. Some do it earlier than others....LOL

Unknown said...

I am tenacious, very very tenacious, as well. So much so that even my doctor told me I was tenacious. I think it's the reason I am still alive. I just refuse to give up.

But your descirption of your early days after high school sounds so much like my son. He doesn't have any vision of himself and he's going to be a very late bloomer. I have high hopes that eventually he'll find himself and what he's supposed to be doing, just as I did. But as a parent, it is difficult to watch your children floundering. How did you parents take it?

Here via Michele.

craziequeen said...

People with a 'Life Plan' or career plan scare the knickers off of me. How can you possibly predict where you will be or what you will be doing for the rest of your life.

Two years ago I had no idea I would be a qualified Health and Safety Officer.

I kinda go with the flow......

Michele sent me to say hi, Mike.

Karen said...

Those are some heavy truths that you've come to realize. Some people live their entire lives not knowing where to go. Good for you for being tenacious and never quitting!

Hope you're having a great weekend! Michele sent me today.

Anna said...

It is so important to not have your identity wrapped up in something of this earth...this is all fleeting. I think it is easier to have tenacity if that is the case. And it does seem that you are more content now than ever Mike. What a feeling...

Thanks for that reminder to me of where my own identities need to be resting.

Pat said...

As sometimes happens I got you and the person above togeter so am visiting you both but I haven't seen you all eek-end so that's OK. It's good to read about your survival and I admire you for it. My step-son had a break down at University and the Chancellot was the ballerins Margot Fonteyn. She spoke solely about tenacity on Degree day as being the quality the graduates needed most. It was very inspiring and I'm happy to say we
all survived a frighteneing experience.
Michele sent me.

Unknown said...

Back from Michele's again. I've read ALL your posts from the last few weeks and already commented. I think you have a strong sense of who you are and what you're all about!

David Edward said...

i relate to parts of this
here from michele