Every now and then I reflect on my life and try to determine if I'm doing good or bad, based on what my folks expected out of me. I've done that again this past week and I think they would have given me good grades but maybe not exceptional ones.
I grew up as an only child in a house full of grown-ups. I lived the first 17 years of my life with my mom, dad, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt and uncle and it was a double-edged sword for me. They protected and shielded me from the slings and arrows of the world (what some people would call 'being spoiled') but they also expected me to excel at everything I did.
Well I couldn't excel at everything I did so I was constantly hearing suggestions from them on how I could do better. I never resisted or rebelled from those suggestions because somehow I knew that they just wanted the best for me and the only way I could hope to achieve that was for me to be the best I could be.
So I participated in every sport, played in the band, went to Boy's State and ran for every office that came up. I did it more for them at that stage of my life than for myself. I would have been satisfied with much less but I knew they wouldn't be and I didn't want to disappoint them. That's the thing about being in a family that gives you their unconditional love every minute of every day. In spite of the things I didn't want to do, I did them anyway because I loved and respected them so much that I didn't ever want them to be disappointed in me for not trying.
Most of them had passed away by the time I was 25 but they left an indelible impression on my life that stands to this day. And somewhere in the process, their ambitions for me became ambitions of my own. I joined the Tulsa Police Department right after I turned 21 but I knew that wasn't what I wanted for a career because they wouldn't have wanted it for me. So while I was there, I went back to school and earned my college degree. As soon as I did, I left the police department to pursue my education full-time and ended up with a master's degree and all the coursework for my Ph.D.
And all these years later, as I reflect on the things I've done, I know they would be happy and sad. I was married for almost 26 years and during that time we raised three wonderful boys that we've always been so proud of. My folks would have been proud of them too but disappointed that our marriage ended in divorce.
I started my college teaching career 30 years ago and they would have been extremely proud of that but disappointed that I ended up at a community college in Nebraska, although it's the best place I've ever lived and taught at.
I love my job. I love my students (most of them), I love this town, and I love where I live. I'm thankful for the friends I have and I respect most of my foes.
But I have my faults. Sometimes I talk too much. Occasionally I don't listen to what other people have to say because I think I know more than they do. My wife always told me I was prideful, a quality she liked in me but a lot of other people don't. I've always been used to getting my way and so it upsets me when I don't. So I'm still a work in progress.
But when I look at everything that's happened in my life, I think I've accomplished many of the things my family wanted me to achieve. There's one area of my life that's lacking that I can't do anything about. I miss the love, companionship and passion of a woman but we have to play the cards we're dealt.
Every day's a brand new adventure and I hope I'm around for a long time to meet it, greet it and embrace it.