Wednesday, June 06, 2012

22 Years Since Graduation

22 years ago, I graduated from high school in Clarkston, Georgia. Our class motto was "If we cannot find the road to success, we will make one." This motto keeps coming back to me as I reflect on the path my life has taken in the years since. I'm definitely not where I had envisioned my life to be and that has proven disappointing. I wonder what happened to that eternally optimistic, the world is my oyster young man? Where did he go?

In a special memory scrapbook I made of my Senior year, there was a page where I could predict where I would be in 5 years and in 10 years. Here's what my 18 year old self had to say:

IMMEDIATE PLANS: My immediate plan is college. For the first year, I'll torture myself and attend the worthless college called DeKalb Community. Then in 1991, I'll go on to the University of Georgia in Athens. I need to get out on my own.

WHAT I WILL BE DOING IN 5 YEARS: In 1995, I will be in Los Angeles, California trying to get an acting job while writing screenplays. By the end of this decade, I want a book of mine to be published and to have box office success for my screenplay, C.I.A.

WHAT I WILL BE DOING IN 10 YEARS: In 10 years (2000), I'll have my first child. I''ll be living in Oceanside / San Diego, California with my beautiful wife in a beautiful mansion designed entirely by me. I'll have my own movie production company called: FARCEURZ ENTERTAINMENT.

MY CAREER GOALS: My goal is to be a writer / actor. I want to write, produce, and act in screenplays. I'm going to work very hard to become known all over the world as well as in the USA so I can laugh at the skeptics who think I won't make it.
Ah...the delusions of adolescence! Completely missed on every single point. But it was not all a loss. What happened?

Well, my dad said that he wasn't going to pay for college and he recommended that I attend DeKalb Community College for two years to get the basic courses out of the way at a cheaper rate. I wasn't thrilled with this idea, mostly because the college was across the street from Clarkston High School, where I graduated. With friends going way to college, it felt like I wasn't going far in life by crossing the street to continue my school. Plus, I was burned out on school and needed a break. The Navy became my escape route.

When I joined the Navy, I wanted to be stationed in Hawaii, Japan or California. However, when I got to "A" School in the summer of 1991, the billet sheet of all the assignments available for our class did not have a single duty station in Hawaii. There was one in Japan, but I did not like the ship (a Tank Landing Ship, which meant a large Marine contingent, and Marines were hardcore military and something to be avoided). There were quite a few duty stations in California and even a couple in Bremerton, Washington that I was tempted to pick. In fact, because of my test averages on two tests, I was able to pick second from the list. What I did not count on was that there were THREE duty assignments in Italy: Naples, La Maddalena (Sardinia), and Sigonella (Sicily)! I had lived 3 years in Germany (from 1985 to 1988) as an Air Force dependent and I wanted another crack at Europe (mostly to do my own traveling, which was primarily Italy and France). I was leaning towards Naples, but another sailor in class really wanted it. My parents recommended Sardinia and ultimately, because the duty station in Sardinia was on a ship, I figured that I would get to travel a lot that way (to ports all around the Mediterranean Sea).

So much for California! To Italy, I went and it was serendipitous. Best decision I've ever made in life. Had so many synchronicity experiences that ultimately proved to me that we live in a spiritually-directed universe, rather than a strictly scientific materialist one. I was even fortunate enough to be able to visit the sailors who picked the other two Italy duty stations and see where they worked. I definitely had the best of the three assignments. In addition to traveling by Eurail through Northern Europe, I got to see Ibiza, Gibraltar, Tangiers, Toulon, Cartagena (Spain), Nice, Naples, Gaeta, Corfu (Greece), Augusta Bay (Sicily), and Alexandria (Egypt) all on the Navy's dime and time. Here's how port visits work: when a ship is at sea, we work 12 hour days and 7 days a week. But once a ship is in port, we have days off except for our duty day rotation, which usually means one or maybe two days of duty while in port. So, if a ship was in a foreign port on a Friday through Wednesday, we'd have every non-duty day off to explore and weren't charged leave, even if it occurred during the weekdays. That's one thing I love about the Navy and why I didn't mind working 7 days a week when the ship was at sea.

When 1995 came around, I no longer cared about fame because I felt like I was able to live the life of my dreams anyway. Plus, I had a high profile job in a small command and got to experience "fame" at a very small scale. It was strange to me when people I didn't know on the ship knew my name, where I worked, what I did, who I dated (the second ship that replaced the decommissioned first ship had a 30% female crew, which was great at first). I hated the scrutiny, including the clothes I wore off ship. Yeah, my clothing choices did attract A LOT of attention. Perhaps subconsciously I did that just to get attention. But, I was young and trying out identities. I was a young internationalist living the life of my dreams. I returned to the U.S. in October 1994 to my last ship, based in Norfolk, Virginia. I knew by 1995 that I was getting out of the Navy in 1996 so that I could go to college and experience that.

Instead of pursuing a screenwriting career in Los Angeles, I became focused on politics. What I didn't know in 1990 when I wrote my predictions was that a Democrat would actually win the Presidency in 1992 and he would pick a Senator for a running mate whom I admired and wanted to work for someday. So, my goal was to get out of the Navy in 1996, enjoy the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and start college so I could finish in 2000, in time to work on the Gore campaign and be a staff member in his presidency.

For school, I went to BYU which the 18 year old me could not have predicted. That led to a great internship program in Washington, D.C. where I actually did get to intern for Vice President Gore in one of the greatest experiences of my life (second only to my Navy Basic Training experience). When the internship ended, I had hoped to find a job in D.C. and ran out of money. The worst mistake I ever made in life was leaving D.C. in July 2000 to return home to Atlanta, the place I never wanted to settle down in. But rather than regret the decision, I think about all that I learned in the past dozen years. Knowing everything that I know now, I would have definitely stayed in D.C. but at the time, I was so indecisive and set my conditions pretty high (I said that I would leave D.C. after doing my duties as Best Man at Nathan's wedding UNLESS I received a job offer from Vice President Gore or Senator Evan Bayh). When I returned from the wedding in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, I had a message on the answering machine from Senator Bayh's office requesting an interview. I was shocked. I had applied to quite a few Senators offices and it was strange that one of the two people that I had mentioned wanting a job with happened to call for an interview. It kept me in D.C. for a couple more weeks, but instead of applying with temp agencies to get regular income coming in, I waited for the call that never came. I didn't get the job and left D.C. in defeat. That was the end of my short "political career."

A part of me wishes that I had chosen a screenwriting career in Los Angeles. In a creative writing class I took in the summer of 1998, there was a classmate from South Africa who did an internship with Morgan Creek Entertainment in Hollywood and was offered a job after she graduated. My political internship led nowhere, but perhaps a screenwriting internship might have? Who knows. The paths we face in life and the roads we take. Who knows where it all leads?

I haven't found the road to success and it is frustrating. What I wanted in life was a meaningful career and the older I get, the more I wonder if I'll ever find it. I like my job, but it's a low wage, dead end job. There's no future in it and the company I work for doesn't reflect my values (loyalty, innovation, spiritual-view). My heart lies elsewhere. So, I'm still in the search and it is my hope that I will find a long-term, meaningful career where I can progress as well as get the salary I've more than well earned (I've paid my dues in low wage jobs for 22 years now, it's time for financial blessings and abundance to flood my bank account).

Until I find my career, there won't be any marriage or children and that's what I want the most. Unfortunately, there is simply no way I can afford to provide for anyone other than myself. This is a reflection of how badly our country has gone off track, because so many people are in the same boat. In an alternate universe where Gore became president in 2001, our country still has a surplus, no debt, and no costly wars (and I daresay, no 9/11 attacks). That's the problem with make a wrong choice (picking a job, picking a president) and you end up paying dearly for it. If I can't find my meaningful, well-paying career before I die, I will be returning to the spiritual world a very disappointed soul. My prayers to God lately have been for guidance to the career that pays the wages I want (a salary that matches my age, which means $40,000 this year) where I feel inspired and knowing that I'm making a real difference in the lives of other people. What can I say, but life is an interesting journey...

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