Sunday, October 26, 2008

Quit Jammin' Me

Sometimes I feel like my life has been a lot like Luke Skywalker trying to hit that target in the trenches of the Death Star. Most people would say the same about their own lives. You have a thing you want to do. You have a dream you want to achieve. It seems like a long shot, like maybe there's not a chance in Hades that you'll reach that goal, but you want it. You can see it in your mind.

And then somewhere along the way, the world beats it out of you.

This kind of happened to my dear hubby. When he was a child, he was certain about what he wanted. He wanted to be a pilot and then an astronaut. Sure, many boys wanted that when they were little, but he really wanted it. It was all he wanted.

So he asked his parents to let him join the Civil Air Patrol. It would have been perfect for him. The answer was no. They were a family that struggled financially a lot. But still. You can struggle and still want your child to succeed, right? He was the oldest, and he knew without a doubt what he wanted. What he got out of his childhood, in the end, was 17 different schools, many, many days of not knowing if there would be food, and many houses that had none of the basic amenities we all take for granted. No CAP for him.

They did take road trips, however, and he once got to visit the Kennedy Space Center. It was back when NASA still let the public have access to things like the Lunar Rover. We have a photo of hubby sitting in the Lunar Rover with an astronaut, asking a million questions. (It's packed away in a box somewhere or else I would have included it was amazing). He had that dream firmly planted in his heart. He just knew it was what he wanted out of life. Still, he got no familial support.

He was often told he would never amount to anything. College wasn't something his parents encouraged him to do, nor did they ever imagine it for their kids. In fact, when I met him, he was not doing so well in school. He had sort of given up. If you tell a child over and over that he is worthless, he will believe you. He was walking 9 miles (each way, down a highway) to a McDonald's in the next town to work full-time, as was his brother, and giving over every paycheck to his mother (while in high school). He was sharing a small set of clothing with his brother. Their McDonald's uniforms were the best clothes they had.

His mother had a refrigerator full of good, healthy food for her Weight Watchers plan, and she threatened the kids with bodily harm if they so much as touched it. The kids were existing on beans and rice or soy sauce and rice or whatever they could get at McDonald's during their shift (or from their older brothers). I suppose free lunches at school were part of their nutrition, too, during the school year.

I took him on as my pet project. He was my best friend, and I often brought a pizza or some such take-out food over for him and his 3 siblings. I bought him clothes. I loved him. I emptied my savings account. I loved him. I still do.

But the damage was far-reaching. He had learned to cut off his feelings, to cut off his dreams. We began dating after I graduated high school. My dreams were stalled, too. I knew nothing about getting student loans for college, but I was living far from home and taking care of myself. I figured college was out of the question. We began to take care of each other. When I became pregnant, we felt we had to do something drastic, so he joined the Marines. He was a damned good Marine, too, but he was so used to being beaten down, so used to undermining his own success that he passed up some great opportunities for advancement and only stayed in for two short hitches.

I've watched him all these years, feeding his fascination with space science through books, films, documentaries, even used textbooks. He has an amazing understanding of things like string theory and quantum mechanics, but school is still a challenge. Now that I have gotten my bachelor's out of the way and am planning for my master's, he is attacking school, aiming for a degree in physics. It isn't easy to be in your mid-40s, doing calculus while you're on the road with work, putting in many hours as a network engineer, but it's do-able. If anyone can get there, it's him.

So now that I have my plans in place to start my grad degree in the spring, people are starting to come out of the woodwork with their opinions. I'm sure they mean well, but they know that I have had health challenges. They probably think they are doing me a favor by telling me that this might not be the best career for me (grief counseling, palliative counseling, and bereavement counseling), but I feel as though God led me to do this. I'm convinced that my suffering has a greater meaning.

And my ultimate inspiration? My husband, who has never quite given up his childhood dream (nor should he!). You see, I believe that when you feel led to do something, you absolutely should do it. You may be thinking he's too old to be an astronaut, but who knows, really? Who knows. If we stop to think too much about each aspect of what it is we want to do, we can talk ourselves out of it. We can finally kill that childhood dream.

The target isn't really as small as that opening on the Death Star...except in our own minds. Really, it's wide open.

Peace - D


Jo said...

This is me standing up and applauding...! Yes...! We only have one life, one kick at the cat. We should go after our dreams.

"You see, I believe that when you feel led to do something, you absolutely should do it." My biggest regret is that I was not able to pursue my dreams. You should never, ever, ever feel that kind of regret.


Maggie May said...

follow your dreams...always.
Iam using my daughter's computer, while away.

Moannie said...

Wonderful post, and one that truly answered my question of a few posts ago: When I grow up I'll be...
And yes yes yes, we should all follow our dreams and it is never too late, all the while we have breath in our bodies.

Good luck to you both...tomorrow the stars.

Akelamalu said...

How inspiring you both are!

My youngest son started doing a Law degree at University when he was eighteen but dropped out after only 16 months. Now at 32 he has started the four year course again and is loving it. He says he has always regretted not finishing the course but is now ready to put his heart and soul into it. You are right it is never too late. x

RiverPoet said...

Josie, you are so right! I'm sorry you have regrets, though. Is it truly too late for your dreams?

Maggie, it's nice to hear from you, and thanks, always, for your support!

Moannie, "tomorrow the stars" indeed! I wish you well while you're away.

Akela - It's wonderful that your son is back in law school. I forget who said, "It's never too late to be what you might have been". Great saying, though.

Peace - D

Mental P Mama said...

My Godmother went back to school at 50, got her law degree, and was the first female Federal Judge in our district. You are never too hold. I am overwhelmingly moved by this story. The Universe is hard at work. As I always believe it to be.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

You are absolutely right about never being too old to attain your dreams. I know hubby will get his degree in physics and will attain his dream. Give him a big hug from me.

Jay said...

GOOD FOR YOU!! Both of you!!

I'm applauding too. It's never too late to reach for the stars, and if you still want to reach, then go for it. That's my thinking. Your husband may, or may not, become an astronaut, but he will know that he tried his best, and will find enormous satisfaction in the journey.

As for you, don't listen to the doubters. It's not for them to know what you feel led to do. Go for it!

I admire you both tremendously.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

I am proud of him for going for it. Isn't so much of it about the journey, anyway? He is going to learn so much about himself. I am excited for you to document parts of his journey here. The two of you are inspiration to all of us.

Real Live Lesbian said...

Standing ovation, here!

He's lucky to have such a wonderful cheerleader in his corner!

Lavinia said...

I seem to recall Dear Abby or Ann Landers having a famous column along these lines. Someone wrote in, asking if they should go back to school, at their advanced age. They wrote, "if I go back to school, when I graduate in four years I'll be XX years old!". And the reply was "And how old will you be in four years if you *don't* go back to school?"

Wise words!

RiverPoet said...

MPM - That's a great story! Have you blogged it yet? If so, send me the link.

CMGD - Wish you two could get together down in Atlanta. He is finally leaving Friday to come home after a month on the road. Ping him!

Jay - Thanks, darlin'! I appreciate the cheers and the support!

NATUI - (((BIG HUGS))) My story is nothing compared to yours, girl. You've been through it!

RLL - And you should see me in the uniform ;-)

Lavinia - Hahaha! How true that is. We age whether we want to or not, but we are so much better off if we keep being useful as long as we have breath in our bodies!

Peace - D

Hilary said...

Beautifully written and very inspiring.. you've got me thinking...

Employee No. 3699 said...

Never say never. And remember, it's not always the destination, but the journey that counts.

RiverPoet said...

Hilary - It will be interesting to hear what comes of your thinking. What will you do next?

3699 - How true! I love the journey. Even if I never achieve some of the things I want, even if he doesn't, at least we will have given it our best shot and will have had fun doing it.

Peace - D

Cloudia said...

This post touched my heart and reminded me of my own struggles.

You said it all beautifully!

Sometimes we must ignore the 'well intentioned' and do the thing that is calling us.
This former hospice volunteer and AIDS worker KNOWS that you will bless many many lives! Carry on.
Your post made me love your husband . . . and YOU. Blessings to you BOTH.
Aloha from Waikiki-

the walking man said...

You'd both be foolish not to go for what you know you can have. John Glen was how old when he went to space the last time...100?

Sandi McBride said...

I remember Dear Abby or Ann Landers column so clearly...a lady in her 30's wanted to go to med school but said to Abby (or Ann) I'll be in my 40's when I complete it, I don't think I can manage it." Abby (or Ann) told her, yes in 8 years you'll be in your 40's anyway. In other words, whats the point of worrying about how old you'll be when that dream is realized? It's the dream that counts. I am so glad for your dear husband, that he's headed for that dream...tell him, I said "bon chance!" And keep that dream in his heart!

Burgh Baby said...

I applaud you for continuing. There is no better time than now to invest in yourself.

I hope your husband never quits dreaming, and maybe even someday is able to get some dreams come true.