This is the last week of school before finals week. I am all caught up. I’m not too sure how that happened. I have only two items left to accomplish - a term paper and a final exam. Although I will probably want to study for the final, I can’t take it any sooner than one week from tomorrow. The term paper, which is about 25% done, has to be turned in on the same day. Everything else is done. Amazing.
Although I have established a pattern of achieving high marks, the same cannot be said of organizing my time such that I am not scrambling at the semester’s end. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, upon closer examination, both my grades and my preparedness have steadily improved over the past three or four years. Still, it comes as a bit of a shock that my grades are so good and that I have nothing major breathing down my neck.
There are a number of factors for this uncharacteristically good academic performance. Strike that - it has been long enough now - this is characteristic. Still, my best academic performance historically has never been better than good enough. I was a “C” student in high school and that was good enough. I didn’t care all that much and for me at 18 years old, I figured I had more than enough time to figure it all out. I didn’t think, however, that it would take more than 20 years.
Wasted time? Perhaps in some respects, but there was plenty of experience to draw on from those years wandering around the outside looking in. I never wanted to be part of the “establishment.” I had these utopian ideals and expectations of entitlement. I didn’t understand how some could be so gifted and I was left with nothing more than want. I didn’t know how to nurture what I had and didn’t recognize my talents anyway. I was so obsessed with who I was not that I could not get to know who I was.
My performance in every area of life reflected my disassociation with the world. It was as if I was on autopilot - doing the things I was “supposed” to do only half-heatedly, never really knowing why. It was only in the role of fatherhood that I ever really felt any sense of purpose and when my marriage fell apart, I thought I had failed in that role as well. I tried really hard but I just was never able to muster the motivation to excel. I was beginning to accept the role of “also ran.” I was settling for mediocrity and I was fine with that.
But life has an odd way of rearranging itself. In my case it did a back flip. I had little choice but to change my perspective. Circumstances dictated a longer view combined with the forced patience necessary to focus on the present. A new journey was thrust upon me and I had nowhere to run. I could only meet the challenge, I could only succeed, I had no choice. For a long time, it was pure torture, the pain was almost unbearable, but I could only move forward. Failure truly was not an option.
October 17, 2000 was my day of reckoning. My life was nearly cut short that day and I can say that there were a number of times… many days in fact that I wished it was. I was involved in a violent head-on collision with a fully loaded logging truck. I was a mess. But I survived and the only choice for me was to get better. And that took a long time. There was no other choice. People would say how brave I was or how much strength it took. Nonsense! I had no choice. I didn’t have the option of dying; even if I were capable of suicide, I was too incapacitated to do it.
Slowly, doing the work became part of my life. Painfully at first, I made myself do what I really didn’t want to do. Eventually, I started to benefit from the willingness forced upon me. Finally, I enjoyed the journey. Ultimately, the rewards of excellence as the result of my own efforts tasted so sweet, I’ll never go back. Through my trauma I have received the greatest gift of all - a life.
The message? It didn’t have to be this hard. I hope someone is listening.