Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I'm a Work in Progress

There! I did it! I finally scheduled us for some bench time at Foci next week. It's been nearly a year and a half since we stood in front of a 2300ยบ F furnace with a dollop of molten glass on the end of a pipe working it into a form. Hopefully, our limited skills will come back before too long. I'm excited to feel the heat again.

I've been getting out to the golf course more than I ever have and I'm pleased that my ribs aren't protesting. I golfed 18 holes each of the last 4 days without any issues. I played with Steve yesterday at Southern Hills in Rosemount and really enjoyed our time together. It had been more than 20 years since I'd last played the course and part of the enjoyment for me as we walked along was the nostalgic aspect of it. I remembered some of the layout but not all.

I mentioned to Steve how much my life has changed in the time since I was last there. I think it's safe to say that the last time I played Southern Hills I had no idea my marriage to Noy would soon end or that I'd entirely quit the game of golf both because I could no longer afford to play and because I wasn't enjoying it anymore. It was a sudden stop and one with little time spent looking back. I even gave up watching golf on TV—something I used to love to do. Instead, I found much needed solace on my bike. But there were some big changes ahead for me as Tammy and Rachel would soon enter my world and give me the best years of my life. I didn't see that coming.

Our lives are full of unforeseen life-changing events that can set us on an entirely different path and while those changes at the time may seem like they're for the worse, I try to look for a silver lining or a lesson of some sort that I can grow from. It may be difficult to see in the moment and for some, it's clearly not there but often, if we're patient, it comes into view.

I've mentioned here before that I was a terrible student in high school, finishing in the bottom 10% of my class while doing just enough to get by. Rather than attending college after my senior year as most of my friends would do, I worked a line-job in a factory in St Louis Park making bundt pans. I knew right away that it wasn't the future I wanted and with my sister's encouragement, I enlisted in the Navy. It was never my plan to serve my country and to be honest, there was nothing patriotic on my part in making that decision. I was on the verge of flunking out on life and this was my last good option.

It would end up being one of the best decisions of my life. I've told the story here if you're interested.

The Navy didn't really prepare me all that well for life without a uniform and I struggled a little to find my way after I was discharged. I entered Inver Hills Community College in the fall of '81 to work on the general studies I'd need before settling on a major. I had dreams of becoming an architect and although my high school grades would cast a good amount of doubt on my ability to realize those dreams, I was acing everything that was put before me in college, mostly because I was actually trying for the first time in my life.

But my life was about to take another turn.

The autumn of '81 was the same time when over 13,000 air traffic controllers were fired for striking and the FAA was scrambling to find replacements. I took the aptitude test along with tens of thousands of others across the country and did well but I nearly took a pass on the offer of a seat at the academy in Oklahoma City because I was enjoying being a student at my little community college. I have my dad to thank for helping me to see the opportunity that was being put before me. I packed my bags and left for Oklahoma City with Keith accompanying me for the all-night drive in my silver Pinto station wagon.

It was a decision I'd come to question but still, I trusted in God that all things happen for a reason and I'd put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

My 14-year marriage to Noy would fall apart in 1997 in what really amounted to a blindside for me. I thought we were doing well but apparently, we weren't. My life's course was about to change direction in a most unanticipated but welcomed way when Tammy and Rachel came into my world.

It's our life experiences that hopefully result in some self-reflection along the way—reflection that molds us into who we are but not only that, it's also how we choose to respond to those unexpected obstacles which cause us to lose our footing or change direction that most defines us. There are lessons everywhere if we look for them.

The next significant turn in my life played out in the workplace in 2006 when controllers were forced to accept a contract from management that was unnecessarily heavy-handed and caused more strife than I ever imagined could exist in my workplace. It was this period of time where I finally did some serious reflection about a Republican party I had been too willing and too trusting in my support of throughout all of my adult life yet it was this same Republican party that was directly behind the unnecessary turmoil we were all experiencing.

I was an avid listener of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Fox News among other insidious voices I was subjecting myself to. I had no idea the extent to how deep-in-the-weeds I was with this hardcore, right-wing ideology I'd cozied up to but once I began to push back against it and truly question it for the first time for myself, it all came crumbling down. Every last brick. It was one of the more freeing things I've ever done. And that for me was the silver lining I'd take away from the "white book" days at work with the FAA—that my eyes were opened. Fully.

None of us are born with an innate understanding of the complexities of the world and if you find that you're never changing, always on the same path, never veering from what you've always believed or had instilled in you or felt in your core—perhaps you're not trying hard enough to see the world from another perspective and maybe you owe that to yourself.

Personally, for me, there was no shame in realizing I'd been hoodwinked. There would've been shame in not being honest with myself and holding steadfast to my faulty beliefs as I saw them.

There's an important election coming up in the US. Vote with your head and not your heart. Take some time to reflect and understand why it is you feel the way you do about the choices we have. It's important that we get this right as best we can. It's also important that we move forward and not backward. Together.

I'm grateful for the challenges in my life and for the understanding that I'm a work in progress.

And that includes my golf game!

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