Tuesday, November 5, 2013

When I grow up...

It has often been said (sometimes by me) that while growing older is mandatory, growing up is optional.  I find a great deal of truth in that, depending on how you define "growing up."  I define it as losing the sense of inquiry, adventure and fun that young people bring to their everyday life, and I hope that I can avoid growing up in that sense for the rest of my life.

There is another meaning, though, found in the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  In the days of my youth the implicit presumption was that at some point a person settles into one job or career and remains there until retirement.  History has not been kind to that presumption, however, and it is now frequently observed that most people will have a series of jobs or careers over their working lives.  This has not come as a surprise to me, nor has it bothered me, because somehow I think I had always known that the jobs and experiences we have along the way are part of the journey of life and not the be-all and end-all of that life.  That's why whenever I was asked as a young person about my future career goals even as I answered with my goal du jour, whether architect or teacher, fireman or cowboy, or whatever, there was always in my mind a qualifier which sometimes got added to the answer and sometimes not.  That qualifier?  "But someday I want to be a full-time writer."  That's where my journey was headed, I thought.  I'll admit that in those days I really envisioned writing science fiction, which was pretty much the only thing I read while I served my time at Enid High.

By the time I got out of school a decade or so later, though, my interests had broadened a bit to include the religion and theology which had been the subject of my college and seminary degrees.  My exposure to professional educators in the graduate school at Kansas State had made me aware of social and political trends which also came to be a big part of my interests, and I began reading history and political theory as well.  Along the way my wife had suggested I needed a hobby, and what began with a visit to a model railroad shop developed into a borderline obsession with the past, present and future of railroads in general, passenger trains in particular, and with the overall transportation industry as background.

I'm a poster child for the "new normal" about multiple careers and employers.  I've worked in retail, service (including food service), manufacturing, telecommunications and transportation fields.  I've served as the pastor of a small town church, been a struggling missionary in one of the tougher parts of the US for church work, been an annoying telemarketer calling people at inconvenient times to sell them something they didn't know they wanted or needed, a telephone technician, and a truck driver among other things scattered here and there.  I've been a member of several unions, including the United Autoworkers, and I'm a lifetime member of the Owner/Operator Independent Drivers Association for independent truck drivers.  Along the way I've earned a BA degree with a major in religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and almost earned a Ph. D. in the field of adult education, lacking only the writing of my dissertation when I finally ran out of time, interest and money (not necessarily in that order).

But what about that "full-time writer" thing?  Ah.... well there's the rub, now.  It's been well over 40 years since I graduated from high school, and it seems that writing has always been a back-burner item for me.  School, supporting wife and child, all that stuff that fills the days and leaves you staring empty at the TV at the end of the day tends to crowd out the dreams we start out with.  I've had a few opportunities along the way to dabble a bit.  A couple of well-written letters to the editor of a local newspaper turned into a year long gig writing a weekly column.  That was an eye-opener, for sure.  Writing on deadline is tough, and when you're just beginning to try to find your voice it can be even more challenging.  Some of what I wrote in those days was pretty decent, some of it was pure dreck.  But I got some positive feedback, enough to make me think I had something to bring to the table if I had a chance.

But I'm running out of time.

You should be closer to your ultimate career goal by the time you pass 60 years old than I am, and I have to do something about it if it is ever going to happen.  Fortunately for me I'm hitting this point just as the publishing industry is being turned on its head and the field seems to be opening up for aspiring writers as ePublishing lets the writers become their own publishers and bypass the old gatekeepers of the legacy industry. I'm optimistic about the possibilities, and starting a blog is a first step toward making the next to last major transition in my journey.

I have a little bit to say about a lot of things, and a lot to say about a few things.  Some of my writings will be short, some long, some funny, and some not.  If you've read this far, I hope you'll come back for more.

Thanks for listening.

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