Wednesday, December 10, 2014

That Gentle Nudge of God's Hand

35 years ago today I was discharged from the Navy after my four year enlistment. Usually this day comes and goes each year with little notice from me but today I remembered. Four years can seem like a long time to someone who's in their early 20s so it was a big deal to me then.

From my journal, 12-10-1979: The sensation of being out caught up with me this afternoon as I was driving the freeway to Chula Vista. I took full advantage and let out a scream of joy, happiness and freedom. How fitting, Supertramp's Take the Long Way Home was playing. 

I had seriously thought about staying in San Diego when I got out but opted to head for home to maybe show my family that I'd grown up and wasn't the troubled kid I was when I'd left. It was a good decision.

I'm about to reminisce in a rambling sort of way...

I'd spent the years leading up to my enlistment just barely getting by in high-school. I learned years later when I requested my records that I'd finished in the bottom 10% of my class. My parents never once inquired about how I was doing in school that I can remember and I never felt any want to do more than I had to, if that. I was in the middle of six siblings so it was easy to get lost in the shuffle. Honestly, I learned how to type at Thomas Jefferson but not much more. What a waste!

I was working the drive-up at Penny's Grocery at Lohman's Plaza in Bloomington one afternoon in my junior year when one of my coworkers (and classmate) offered me some white-cross...speed. I don't recall that I hesitated much. I liked what they did for me. Over the next few months John would introduce me to several other drugs that I was only too willing to try; heavy stuff that I'd never consider doing again but that was where I was at. Adrift.

Low self-esteem and no direction can be a bad combination but I remember through all of it that I always felt God's hand on my life. I don't know how else to explain it. There was a plan for me even if I had no clue as to what that plan was.

It would take a bad LSD trip to convince me that I needed to stop my reckless ways. And I did, except for the alcohol. By the time my senior year was over I'd put the drugs behind me but I still had no idea what to do after graduation.

The summer of '75 was a blur and when those I'd graduated with went off to college I looked around and saw that I needed something more than my job fueling cars at the Holiday station on highway 55 in Golden Valley. I enrolled in a drafting course at Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park but my heart wasn't in it and I left after a couple months.

Some of the best advice I'd ever receive was about to come my way from my sister Jackie when she suggested I go and talk to a Navy recruiter. My dad, my brother Bryan and Jackie's husband Jerry had all served in the Navy so I didn't really give the other branches of military service any consideration.

And so it was. The hand of God in the form of Jackie's suggestion was prodding me forward and off into the world. I never really resisted or looked back (except to reminisce as I'm doing now). It was without question the best decision I could've made. I matured a lot over the next few years and developed some confidence along the way; something that was non existent before.

And I fell in love!

So when my enlistment was up 35 years ago today I knew I needed to go home and reconnect with family again. I had no real idea where my life would take me next but I was open to that gentle nudge of God's hand in whatever direction it would lead me and that's pretty much how I still live my life, watching for clues and currently waiting on that prompting (or perhaps I'll need a shove!) into retirement and what awaits me beyond that.


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