All Roads Lead To Rome

When we are young, perhaps as early as ten or eleven, we have some idea or some overriding interest that propels us toward that idea of work, or profession that will see us through life and into old age.  My older brother had such a vision, if you like that word.  He was about twelve when he became interested in ham radio.  I was three years younger at the time and thought it might be really neat to learn morse code, something I never did accomplish.  But Nelson has a friend across the street, a boy nicknamed Q, I don’t really know the origin.  But Q was the youngest son with four older sisters that pretty much ruled his life.  He and Nelson would spend time in a large closet that Q claimed for his own sanctuary and they would study code and the rule books on their way to gaining the various ham radio licenses.  They both built receivers and transmitters that they ordered from Heathkit and spend many hours doing what ham radio operators do, listening for signals and establishing contacts around the country.  Once hooked on ham radio Nelson decided that he wanted to be an electrical engineer.  At that time electronics was not perceived as a totally separate entity and there were very few logic chips being manufactured.  My little brother, some eight years younger never had much an idea of what he wanted to do in life and just drifted into bookkeeping as a means of employment.  Some children are like that.  They may have an interest in plants and growing flowers and ferns, but beyond that they don’t really have a passion for some work venue like Nelson did.

I, on the other hand, wanted to be lots of things.  Pilot, firefighter, policemen, infantry or tank man, whatever seemed fun at the time.  Later on as I went through junior high school I thought it might be neat to be a machinist.  I have always been attracted to complex tools.  Even a steam locomotive engineer seemed like a fun job.  By the time I was fifteen I toyed with the idea or running off to see and joining the merchant marine.  My father was insistent that I become an engineer, perhaps he saw the potential I had and the ability to conceive of ideas in an engineering manner.  My mother claimed that I should be a doctor.  I never formed much of an opinion until age of seventeen when I thought I would be best suited doing work as an technical illustrator and writer.  What I really wanted to do was become an artist, in particular a potter.  My father and I had words and almost traded blows,  I left home and school.  Months later I left the area and ended up in the service.  But the service, while it can work wonders for some and help find them the work they might be best suited, for many, like myself, it left a bitter taste in my mouth and I was about as skilless when I left as the day I enlisted.  I thought I had some idea of what I wanted to do, I thought I would like to get a degree in history, perhaps a masters degree as well, and then teach at the college level.  That seemed to be the idyllic life.

Unfortunately the service held two surprises for me.  The first was an ill-advised marriage while the second led to bankruptcy.  Had I been stationed the last year or two at a regular base I doubt either event would have happened.  And had I chosen a little more wisely my service job I might have accumulated at least several years of college credits.  Well, life does present its challenges and after two years of being minimally, I landed a job with the telephone company working outside craft.  I might have been satisfied to work outside for the forty one years I needed to qualify for retirement at age sixty five, but I was a bit bored with the work.  As it was, by the time 1992 came around almost all of those who worked outside craft were laid off and ended up as contract employees.  Many never worked again in telecom.  By 1982 I had gone inside to switching and became a technical worker type.  But even that had its limits and by 2002 I would have been forced into contract work.  Five years earlier I was an telecom engineer and crossing over into data communications and learning cable television voice and data applications.  I also learned, from necessity how to be a technical writer and proceeded to write manuals and a couple of technical books.  Unfortunately I was non degreed and no one was interested in technical books written by a now unemployed non degreed telecom engineer.  There were well over a quarter million of us out of work when the bust came and no one was hiring.  On the other hand I had done the technical writing, did technical teaching, and operated complex machinery.

The only thing left was to become a commercial truck driver.  So I did, completing that circle of want to do jobs I had from age ten on.  I’ve had many more diverse and unique experiences not mentioned here, so I can’t complain about life.  I’m not well off but I am hardly poor, either.  As a child and young adult I was always fascinated with movies that showed large personal libraries.  Now I have one.  I just don’t have those large houses where the library is a huge room.  Can’t have everything, you know, and besides, the taxes would break me.  Life is largely finding something to do with your time on this planet.  With some planning and a bit of luck, you might have one of those idyllic lives where everything comes together all your life.  Or you might find that after years of grubbing your life turns into the success you always sought.  Frankly, if you come out even you are doing well.  Too many people in this world never get even that chance.  And for those of you who suffer from a bit of vanity, don’t worry.  After you die people will forget who you were and what you did.  Two hundred years from now nobody will remember the Clintons or Obama or the Bushes.  So why should anyone remember you?  Do you remember a man named Shockley?  How about Hertz or Marconi?  I doubt hardly any of you know the name NB Forrest.  And unless you are English you don’t know the name Guy Fawkes.

Our decisions and the opportunities or lack there of define our lives, our being in the world, and what we do, whether little or great.  Life is living regardless of everything else, it is inhabiting some bit of space in the universe for some period of time.  That may not sound like much but it is everything to us, to our being, to our continued existence.  That is our importance in the universe, that is our reason.  All else is vanity.


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