Monday, January 26, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Friday, January 02, 2009
When I was a little boy, I dreamed of the day that I would grow up and be a scientist, a robotics scientist that could breathe life into my favorite Sesame Street characters, starting with Ernie.
Life, I suppose, is the easiest answer—a dismissal for sure, but truthful. I never was a good student, but I was doing ok until I got to high school. The seeds were planted, and by then I had the ear-marks of a drop-out. It took me three years of college until I did just that.
What a poor wandering lost soul I was.
I know now that this was all on my parents. A child of multiple divorces, living with an alcoholic father and step-mother, both too self-absorbed to be bothered, except to throw tantrums when evidence of their failure arrived in the form of report cards. Sure, I had every bit to do with each decision I made, but I was a rudderless ship, and I bashed myself for not supplying one of my own. But now I'm a parent I know that I was still a child, more so than any of my peers. I never grew up until I got married if I were to be perfectly honest, and in many ways I still am.
This could never happen to my sons. I—we, my wife and I both—pay attention. We're involved. There is no way that they will be wandering the early like Cain in Kung Fu when they graduate from high school. They've got partners in this life. They'll never be alone as long as we live.
I remember my physics class in high school. The teacher, Eldon Dennis, was a bit flabbergasted that I would have even attended in the first place. I was just awful. I didn't care a lick for hard work, analysis, mathematics. I was the anti-student. Yet there I was in a class with the best and the brightest. And yet I stuck with it. I would have failed, but the assistant at the time sold me a copy of the final exam.
Ever since then, I've thought that physics was simply beyond me, even though I went on to college (my second college) and got through Calculus II without much difficulty. In fact, after Calc II, I was beginning to think I had missed my calling, since the solving on an equation gave me such satisfaction. And really, until I had taken Calc, I didn't realize just how real-life math is. By that time, on the brink of graduation, it was too late to get serious about it.
So here I am, a forty four year old man who thinks he's still in his teens, thinking that I should have traveled another path. It was clear what I wanted to do when I was a kid, pining to make fantasy come to life. But I have to wonder… even now, is it too late? The answer is a bit complicated, but I have to think that it's not. I'm roughly half way through with this life, so that leaves another half for a do-over.
I want to sit down at my computer and draw a design, then I want to build my machine with movable parts, complete with gears and levers. I want to build an engine—and not just the engine, but the tools that make the parts of the engine, and the tools that make the tools that make the parts of the engine—and perhaps a trebuchet in my back yard to hurl dead squirrels into the woods. This might be my father working his way out of me, but I realize now that this is what I've always wanted to do.
Today I build software. Whoopdie-doo. It's kind of sad, but the only reason I still do it is because it pays the bills. I'm not complaining. If it weren't for software, I don't know where I would be, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be sitting in a house that I call my own. The problem with following your heart is that you have to be in touch with yourself enough to know what your heart is.
My wife started a new tradition this New Years day. Each of us wrote down our resolutions on index cards and put them into a box which we will open next New Years day. My wife wants to write my grandmothers a letter every month, and my five-year-old Emmett wants to learn Kung Fu (Kung Fu Panda, if you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the best movie made in a long time—Jack Black is perfectly cast!), and Jackson (nine) is keeping his a secret for now (but I know it has something to do with learning basketball). Mine is two-fold: start into the process of night-school or online educating myself in mechanical engineering, and to write a short story of at least three thousand words and submit it for publication.
No more goofing around.