So, I’ve had a lot of things happen over the past several months. Oddly, most of the ‘bad’ things really haven’t happened to me (in my personal life)…..it’s just stuff in my professional life etc. Last week, I testified in a divorce proceeding (that was also a custody situation as well) for a long-time friend/co-worker. The whole business lasted ALL DAY. I was so exhausted when I got home……it was a beating. This, after spending quite a few-dozen-hours on the phone with said friend over the past few months (not complaining…..just takes a lot out of you)……in the lead-up to this giant event. You know, maybe I would have NEVER wanted to be an attorney…..that stuff is rough, man. It was such a sad, painful event…….but in the end, my friend ended up with custody and they’re divorced…..it’s over. He gets child support, too…….not a lot, but it’ll help.
I generally don’t get too carried away here in terms of mental health stuff, but I thought I’d toss this into the ether as it might help someone out there. I could make this a REALLLLLL-LLLLLLYYYYY long post but I’m busy and not in the mood to do that right now.
This summer, while away on vacation, I had some time to do a little thinking about a few things…..to take stock of where I am and what I’m doing in my life. I’m in my mid-40’s (and sliding rapidly toward my LATE 40’s!)…..so these kinds of thing tend to happen around this time in a person’s life.
I make my living in the field of social services, which as anyone knows DOESN’T tend to reward workers in a large monetary sense of the word! A good number of years back, I spent some time in healthcare administration….and made EXCELLENT money, but it was VERY stressful on me and my family. Here’s the critical thing: I had several flavors of superiors (‘Senior V.P.’s’ blah-blah-blah….you get the idea). I generally DID NOT feel like I was cut out to climb the ladder and become one of those types of corporate talking-head type guys…..fine, great, groovy. In my self-talk, I might say: ‘I’m just not that type of guy.’ …….and hey, that’s perfectly fine. HOWEVER, during my ‘epiphany’ I came to realize that, in very subtle ways, I’d been insulting myself for NOT TRYING TO BE one of those kinds of guys. I’d been tormenting (so-to-speak) myself for not being one of those conquer-the-universe type guys! On one side of my brain, I knew what I was/wasn’t…..but on the other side of my brain, I spent a lot of time calling myself a ‘loser’ etc. That’s really twisted……..and so strange to me that I was just ‘deaf’ to that. To continue this thought further, I’ve often been a ‘You’re OK, I’m not OK’ kind of person. I lean toward…..’Everyone else is on a cruise’……’Everyone else is getting promoted’…..’Everyone else is getting a raise’ in my mind……..all the while, ignoring the people who’re failing/struggling left-and-right!
So, here’s the deal: Life is hard……..FOR EVERYONE! That neighbor of yours, who’s always doing great…….he isn’t……….trust me on that. Everyone you know is struggling, and clawing and huffing and puffing their way through the day JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. One of those guys I know (I respected him, and still do today)……he experienced HUGE amounts of success in a company I worked for. Then, one day, his wife couldn’t pick up a dish. He took her to the hospital, right during the midst of his perfect life and his perfect kids (each of whom belonged on a magazine cover)….and his amazing house and his incredible salary…….to learn she had a massive brain tumor. She died 18 months later, at 42…..and his world got turned upside down….his beautiful, sweet, intelligent wife, who adored him and their kids. I don’t glory or revel in that….I care about that guy……but life didn’t hand him perfection……’cause it NEVER promised that it would to begin with. No one gets perfection…..no one.
During President Bill Clinton’s first term in office, much of the United States took for granted that there would be welfare reform of some sort. The question was what it would look like. The answer came 20 years ago, on Aug. 22, 1996, when Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. President…
Many people, even those in their 20’s are known to say, ‘Man, I’m getting old!’ or the old chestnut, ‘Man, getting old sucks.’ But I’ll tell you what’s been on my mind here lately: The realization that I seriously AM getting older. I’m not quite in my ‘late 40’s’ just yet. But I am at that place where a lot of people find themselves…….haven’t remotely achieved the degree of career success I’d hoped for, don’t have nearly the money in the bank I’d hoped for, my marriage is so-so, my life is way too busily wrapped up in a mixture of tedious logistics and boring drivel. My business card has ‘social worker’ printed on it, but ‘guy who types numbers in little blocks displayed on a computer monitor’ is what it should read.
I honestly don’t feel like I’m in a mid-life crisis (I got that out of the way YEARS ago). I just can’t believe I have so FEW YEARS left to live. In my working life, I’ve tasted of both success and failure (as most have)…..but I’ve sort of flopped down in some sort of gray zone nestled between the two……and, in a manner of speaking, that’s OK with me. ‘Settling down’ is good for child-rearing years and I’m nuts about my kids. Work-wise, my wife is actually going through a much more painful spot that I am…..and I’m perfectly fine just grinding it out for a while so she can re-gain her footing, I really am.
It’s just hard realizing that I’m not that incredible anymore–notably, I probably never was, but for a while I THOUGHT I was (as most young people do)! I mean, I’ll nearly be an ‘old man’ in about 20 years…….20 years!!! How can I be 20 years away from being almost-old?! Geez, I’m rambling. To be continued……….
When I was young (as in, very early 20’s)…..I had BIG dreams. I didn’t, however, have a solid plan mapped out for how I would bring those dreams to pass. Oh, I had a ‘map’ (metaphorically speaking), just a teeny scribble on a scrap of paper floating around up in me head. My plan was to, ultimately, become an amalgamation of Dr. Phil and Donald Trump….I like to jokingly say (technically, this was LONG before your common bear had even heard the name Dr. Phil and eons before ‘The Donald’ decided he wanted to be The Chief…..but I digress).
I pretty much always liked books and learning……but high school was soooooooo-ooooo boring! Theater and music and church were life, man! That’s all that mattered! So, after a stint in the military, I started college at 20…..dreaming of being a Licensed Professional Counselor (or something of that ilk). I was generally much better at ‘the college thing’ than I was at high school stuff. I thought, that, just a few years down the road, I’d have a big office with huge windows and a water feature in the lobby and I’d write shelves of books and go on speaking tours and I’d be this wizened sage and would, of course, make waterfalls-of-money on a regular basis. I even went to work for a community mental health center, that schooled me well on the realities of working with people who struggle with problems.
Well, I didn’t bring grad. school to pass. I do ply my trade as a social worker these days, which is a noble undertaking, albeit one that isn’t heavily rewarded in the money category. I finished college…….not long after that, my Mom’s health began to take its final, radical nose dive, though. My step dad left this world 19 months after Mom left it…..and my father is really a non-starter in the parenting department. Those things, plus about 10-12 other factors which I’m leaving out……and I just didn’t make grad. school happen……I just didn’t. Officially speaking…..I never really even started grad. school….I didn’t.
Sure, there was some ‘other stuff’ in terms of college after graduating…….some psychology pre-reqs (which I took too soon after my Mom’s passing….not in a good place for academics, but I still managed to muddle through for the most part). A little computer science……one or two graduate Sociology classes, etc. I even later earned an undergrad. Certificate from a college in West Texas. I’m rambling a bit, but I’m really going somewhere here, trust me.
Sometimes, when you’re young…….you build this VERY NARROW tower in your mind (more of a ladder, to be exact)….and you think: ‘I intend to achieve success. Therefore, I will do step 1, then step 2, then step 3…………..blah-blah-blah, and when I get to step 30, I will have arrived!! That will be it….I will have succeeded!’ In reality, life rarely works like that! Life is NEVER perfectly linear, for anyone!! Things don’t move in perfect sequence……they just don’t. You might get 80% into your ‘big plan’ and realize: ‘This isn’t at all what I wanted!!’ You might become a parent, and find out your child has a serious medical condition…….that impacts your ability to pursue some of your dreams! What I’m saying, (clumsily) is this: life can hold many rewards for you that you never thought were possible when you were young…….so don’t let them fly right by you! I’ve ‘gained’ things or ‘succeeded’ at things or have ‘become’ [positive] things that I’d never have even conceived of when I was 20 years old.
Take a minute…..look around at your life and congratulate yourself for the GOOD things you are and have done in your time on this earth! Don’t let your ‘little’ accomplishment slip right past you!
I don’t claim to be an expert on education finance or reform, but here is a bit from a comment following an education-related article I read today in the Dallas Morning News:
“As to school funding, try finding a study that shows a correlation between per pupil expenditures and student achievement — they don’t exist. The tenure of the teacher, the educational level of the teacher and the educational level of the parents determine student achievement.”
So, I’m pretty open about the fact that I harangue and insult people who photograph their food….it’s just weird….I mean, it’s just food! But I was on a family vacation in Bastrop, Texas recently and my daughter took a photo of her plate from the dessert bar….and it looked good! So, here it is: