Entering Phase V

When I was twenty years old, I wanted to be a scholar. I wanted to read, to study, to write, to live a life of the mind like the professors and authors I admired. I wanted to teach, to learn, and to be a part of the grand conversations that form the intellectual fabric of our civilization.

Yet I was plagued by the unemployment rate among twentysomethings with doctorates, by the fact that at the end of ten years of higher education lay no reasonable assurance of a job, just the prospect of being another fish in a pool of Doctors of Philosophy fighting over adjunct professorships in obscure colleges. Overeducated and underemployed, I would spend years seeking a place in academia, overeducated and underemployed, and perhaps for life.

It would be nice to say that I cast all of these fears aside, knuckled down, pushed ahead with my dream, and built a respectable career as an historian/political scientist. But it would be a lie. Lacking the requisite confidence and courage, I ran away from my dream.

So I cooked up a new one: I would go into business. It was the early 1980s, after all, and our heroes were boardroom cowboys. I carried a briefcase, I read the Wall Street Journal, I was a 6’7″ version of Alex P. Keaton.  I went to a decent business school, got a job with the firm of an old family friend, hooked myself into China as its economic boom began, and held on for dear life.

And here I am, 37 years later, and every day, the dreams I left behind come back with greater urgency. My wife and son can tell. They sit me down and remind me that life is short. They tell me I don’t need to put off my dreams any longer. And I can no longer hide from the truth in their words.  It is time time for the dreams to rise again.

We all look at our lives in different ways. I see mine have gone in four phases. First I was a child, then a student, then I built a career, then I built a family. Now it is phase five. Now I chase my dreams. In 16 days the to-do list gets set aside, and I begin living my life by my bucket list.

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