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.