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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Life at Forty One - Part One

I sit here at the cusp of two thousand and nine, watching a truly inspirational movie -Men of Honor- starring Cuba Gooding. It's the tale of a man of humble circumstances who persevered in spite of the culture of racism and elitism which permeated the navy back in the day (even now). His ability to stay the course was beyond admirable. He was insulted, ostracized, cheated, damn near killed and still he sought only one goal, to achieve the rank of Master Diver. This single purpose saw him through a near death experience, divorce, amputation of his leg, and the basic railroading he received at the hands of the navy brass. Wow!

In my job as Academic Dean of a career school, I work with people that are looking to change their lives due to their social, economic, or cultural circumstances. As part of the intake process, we perform an orientation that bristles with the optimism of opportunity. We play music and provide truly motivational words to fortify the student's decision to attend our school. We ask them to dig deep into their treasure troughs for the will to make their dream sustainable. As a business, we measure using a myriad of results; completion, attrition, and employment rates. Through all these outcomes, the pervasive and recurrent themes are the stories of perseverance. The many stories of which I am privy. Boys/men and girls/women having persevered through some of the most incredible circumstances to achieve a dream.

I have a story too, one that is filled with the endurance and pain of four decades. It is just as filled with the highs and deep lows of Master Chief Brashear. Though mine may not have been underwater, but they have been just as lung splitting as holding your breath for over four minutes. So as I sit here doing that Anhedonic thing; the television is going with subtitles, Pandora is playing through my IPOD earpiece, and I am typing on my blog. I am beginning to realize that I am forty one years old and never actually realized that I have ADD, ADHD, DVD, CD, and MP3. These are all congenital conditions (things that I was born with). My wife and daughter are asleep and even now at my age, I sit in awe and abject confusion about where next my ship will take them. There are many nights I lay awake at night not knowing if I can trust my compass. That deep desire to live life as fully as possible, but in the most enjoyable manner possible runs in diametric opposition to the sensible order of life. There is a point at which your story must become the bibliography for another.

As we grow, our priorities are supposed to be congruent with our responsibilities. We are supposed to develop good habits and have reached the point of visible maturity in person and environment. The disparate variations of our life choices being more evident at this age. We are supposed to be established, to have a thought out plan for tomorrow. It is the unsaid expectation that you are a grown up. In my run-ins and in my own life, I am discovering now that it can take a lifetime to shed the layers of wool that grow for winter. I have seen this manifest itself through the life of a student as I try to convince them that they can make it. The self sabotage that rears its head after decades of being told they will amount to nothing. In hearing my own voice guide me through a storm, reminding me of the many times I was told that I would not be this or that. Has my life been a quest to prove someone wrong? A deep desire to throw mud in an eye? The blueprint for life is there and yet, my disdain for architectural drawing cripples me. Therefore my ability to see the picture is hampered and it can only be imaged by the knowledge that the blueprint represents life itself. That's how it is for all of us, we can only manipulate that which we control. Our very breath a very tenuous existential question mark.

As we turn into this year that begins with the immense historical presence of a President Barack Obama, I am asking some deep questions. On a recent trip to an open house at the NASA facility in Greenbelt, we were given a briefing on the working of the Hubble telescope and shown the pictures of galaxies far away. I see the insignificance of my presence in the scope of a hundred galaxies and the true irrelevance of my existence. In this vast expanse and universe; I must ask the question; "What is is your impact on your little space?" That's the question that I want to bring to my students at the next orientation. I realize how much Generation Y has found itself in the cycle of historical seclusion and dismemberment. Its uniqueness its war cry, its best weapon, but it is also its Achilles heel.

To be continued.....................

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