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.

Paint my Heart Haze Grey

Sitting in the passenger seat as my wife drove us across the Coronado Bridge in San Diego yesterday, I saw a sight that stirred the heart: three complete carrier groups in port all at the same time, including at least two of the Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers.

There were also a bunch of auxiliaries, and what looked like half of the Gator Navy, plus the USS Boxer in dry dock for her upgrades.

What made me happiest was the light in my 19 year-old son’s eyes. He may have been born in China, but he is an American through-and-through. 

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