Sunday, January 08, 2017

He Was Ready, I Was Not

Did It Really Matter?

            One must accept one’s nature, it seems. In spite of all the formulas for success we’re taught by our parents, teachers, mentors, and peers, we’re bound by who we are, whether we acknowledge that person or not.
            My neighborhood friend and I went to middle school and high school together and were set to attend the same hometown college. But after we graduated from high school our paths separated. My friend practiced memory exercises all summer in preparation for his freshman year. Should I be doing that, too? I couldn’t think of anything I’d’ve rather done less! So I didn’t.
            But I worried about it. There was a right way and a wrong way to do everything, I’d been taught, and my friend seemed to be preparing for college the right way while I wasn’t thinking about college much at all—the wrong way.
            But it wasn’t a matter of right or wrong, as I feared then. It was a matter of following my nature by not preparing for what was ahead, just as my friend followed his by preparing so assiduously that I had to say I hardly knew him any more.
            We both came out of college with honors, but he got the higher ones because, you could say, he prepared for college and I didn’t. And there is something to that assessment. He started his freshman year ready for what was coming, acing his tests from the start. I was not ready. College came as a shock to me, and it took me most of my freshman year to settle in and figure out how to succeed in this new and demanding environment.
            But there was no way I could have prepared for where my nature was leading.
            In that summer when he was memorizing his flash cards I was sweating in a print shop, taking TV Guides off a reptilian binding machine which engorged the printed pages, collated them, stapled them, folded them, cut them to size, and spit them out on a conveyer belt in lots of 25. My job was to scoop up each lot and stack it, one on top of another, on a skid. When the skid was piled high enough, a fork lift brought in another, taking the loaded one away to another part of the building where a crew of women inserted the magazines inside the Sunday paper.
            When I wasn’t working, I was at the swimming pool with my girl friend, who still had another year to go in high school, or I was at her house watching TV with her parents, or, if they were out, exploring each other’s anatomy as we came ever closer to “doing it.” College seemed remote, certainly not a priority for me...yet.
            At the end of the summer, as I was about to leave the bindery to start college, the director of personnel came to see me on the factory floor. He had a proposition for me. How would I like to be an editorial trainee on our city’s daily evening newspaper? It was a program the company ran for promising college students. I’d work part-time during school and full-time over summer, learning the newspaper business from the ground up.
            This was a stunning opportunity for me, one I couldn’t refuse, though it made adapting to college while learning a profession on the side an even more difficult initiation for this ex-happy-go-lucky high school grad.
            Yet there was no way I could have prepared for something I didn’t expect—an opportunity to learn journalism, get paid, buy my first car, support a girl friend, and finally make it to the dean’s list, too! I even played a role in a community production of “A Christmas Carol.” And I went on to become co-editor of my college newspaper.
            Is that success or is that success?
            It’s not my nature to think ahead, making plans to position myself for opportunities. My nature is to wait for the right thing to come to me, then respond. I’ve groped my way to happiness living that way for nearly a lifetime. I see no reason to discontinue the practice now. Besides, I couldn’t if I tried. It’s my nature.
            My old neighborhood friend, by the way, got his PhD and went into academia, as I might have done if I’d been better able to prepare. But the last I heard he dropped out of all that and was writing a novel. I never heard whether it was published.
            Maybe doing those flash cards that summer wasn’t in his nature after all.


At 4:14 PM , Blogger Betty Davis said...

Great story...Very uplifting...

At 4:14 PM , Blogger Betty Davis said...

Great story...Very uplifting...


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