29 July 2008
At some point in your life, you realize your childhood dreams won’t come true. You’ll never be (in my case) Roger Staubach or Johnny Rutherford. You realize that those dreams, the ones that filled your head when you were 8, the ones you thought would just happen because someone had told you “this is America! You can be anything you want to be!” were never realistic to begin with. You don’t have the God-given talent or physique for football or buckets of money and connections to drive racecars. I suppose I reached that point a long time ago. I don’t recall an epiphany or anything, it just never happened and it seemed natural that it never happened.
Other times in life, you realize that your smaller, slightly more realistic dreams won’t come true, but you have no one to blame but yourself. I was never possessed with great physical size, but I had good hands and speed, and could have been a pretty good wide receiver. Not NFL good, or maybe not even NCAA good, but I could have played in Jr. High and High School. In fact, I tried out in 8th grade, assured that at my small school, anyone who tried out would at least “make the team.” I went to the first practice, 4 hours of sheer hell in the hot Memphis in July heat, and when I got up the next morning, I couldn’t move! I mean literally couldn’t walk! Remember those old Army commercials: “I’m hurtin in places I didn’t know I had?” Well at 13, there were a LOT of places I hadn’t found yet, but I found many of them that morning and they all HURT! Looking back, it’s my own fault that I didn’t force myself back and work through the soreness. Genetically, I’d never have been a 6’6” wrestler, but I could have been bigger than I am if I’d followed through with the weights and training and stuff that would have gone along with being on the football team. Or when I was in my early 20s and thought about joining the Army. If one desired to do one’s duty and perform at least one stint of military service, it would have been the perfect time to do so. It was after Vietnam but before Desert Storm. The biggest thing we invaded was the island of Grenada, which I think required a bass boat, four riflemen and a squad of cooks. But alas, I had already discovered the allure of making just enough money to spend it all, and the military don’t pay SQUAT (a fact I will rectify one day when I’m President), so I started college, started working at the bank, and began what for most of us is the normal path of life. It is a path you really don’t think about going down, you just kind of wake up one day and realize you’re on it, and you’ve been on it for a long time, and you’ve got a long way left to go on it. You’ll ease into something called a “career” doing something that you (hopefully) don’t loathe and that (maybe) pays the bills, and you’ll work for 45 years or so, hopefully get your kids out of the house, into college and out on their own, then maybe get to enjoy a few years of retirement. Although, with the stock market the way it is right now, I pity any bank employee retiring right now! Thank God I sold all of my Regions stock when I quit, I sold at about $34 and it’s trading today at around $9.50. Of course, giving up on the concept of retirement takes a lot of the pressure off. If you just resign yourself to the fact that you’ll have to work until you die, it’s not so disappointing to look at your 401(k). Retirement planning becomes a matter of managing the timing of your first heart attack. (Hillshire! GO MEAT!) But as I said, this is where your dreams become more manageable because you realize the semi-realistic ones ain’t gonna happen, but it’s your own darn fault! I got there maybe a few years ago. Again, no “Light on the Damascus road,” but I can narrow that one down a little more.
Then there are the dreams that you didn’t really think were dreams. Dreams that should have come true. Dreams that had to be actively shattered, by you or someone else, usually a little of both. Try as you might, you can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again because you don’t hold all the pieces. Our lives are intertwined with other people, all of whom hold small pieces of that shell. Some people hold more, or larger, pieces than others. I am responsible for my own pieces, and in some way for the pieces of certain others, all of whom will have to live with the scrambled egg (in Oregon, the sidewalks aren’t hot enough to instantly fry it like Memphis). Humpty can never be what he once was; a smooth, pristine white egg perched on a pedestal he never should have been sitting on to begin with. Maybe he was pushed. Maybe it wasn't realistic to expect him to balance on that wall to begin with. Unrealistic expectations are a recipe for disaster. Humpty will never be unbroken, but unlike the fairy tale, this dream Humpty could be pieced back together. With a lot of time and effort, he could be repaired. He’d be scarred, misshapen, a little dirty here and there, perhaps, but he’d be more or less whole. But no one person can do that. You can’t make each person contribute their pieces to the whole. And unless they do, everyone’s pieces stay where they are; broken, scrambled, and less than what they were made to be. Life goes on, but you move on with a handful of cracked eggshells that don't fit anymore. You can either contribute your pieces to the whole, or refuse to. Either way, each piece-holder can only contribute the pieces they have and pray for the others, especially the ones who, through no fault of their own, have to lived with their broken pieces.
I’ll contribute mine, what will you do with yours?