Sunday, January 30, 2011

a practical thinker……

I remember when I decided I was going to go to the University of Wisconsin.  I was going to be a writer, a journalist, Dan Rather, William Sapphire.  I was going to be a lawyer, a regular Efram Zimbalist Junior.  I know he wasn’t a lawyer, but what a cool name if we was….

So, I did something called Integrated Liberal Studies, a two year program for really smart people in the humanities, smart beyond my belief.  I never felt I belonged, but I loved it, and I grew.

But, there were all of these smart people, from great places all over the world.  I’d never been on an airplane.  How did I belong to this group?  People always said they were impressed with me, but I never saw it.

While I was in school, I worked.  I worked in a nursing home in recreational therapy.  I worked mostly with old people, getting them out into to community, normalizing their lives.  To me, it was a practical thing.  These people had lives before they got into the home.  Wouldn’t they want to do the things before they got themselves into that situation?

So, I took them to things they did, not things we thought they should do.  I took people into bars, shot pool.  We played cards, went to community festivals.   People had actual conversations with “regular” people.  We went to games.  We went to church.  I felt like my job was to extend their real lives while they were in the nursing home.  And, it worked.

But, back to school.  I transferred to the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, not because I didn’t love Madison.  But, Whitewater had a good journalism school with this great class in advertising.  So, I went.  And, I did well and…..

While I was in Whitewater, and Madison, for that matter, I was in contact with a company regarding a job.  I contacted them once a month for three years.  I was offered a job after my junior year (less than 10 credits short of graduation, and all major work completed)  for $42,000 a year (this was 1979, in the middle of our great malaise).  I took it.

I took it for a lot of reasons.  It secured my future when futures didn’t look so great.  I took it because I grew up on a farm and really never had a lot.  I took it because it validated me.

Do I regret it?   Sometimes.

I’ve had a great career, and I’m a lifelong learner.  Learning doesn’t stop because you’re not in a classroom.   I decided I could learn.  I could use my curiosity to my advantage, and I have.

But, I still have those feelings of inadequacy, especially when I’ve been around accomplished people, thinking maybe I could be accomplished, too. 

And then it comes to me.  I am accomplished. 

I guess those feelings never completely go away. 

This is a completely different blog than I intended to write.     


  1. You know, it's never too late :) Especially with all the online degree programs out there! For kicks, I'm taking an online Real Estate course at a local community college... it's a completely different experience from the classroom, but it's fun to learn something new. You should check it out. It will give you plenty of reading material for all those plane rides...

  2. Yes, you are accomplished. And while I totally understand the feelings of inadequacy, the feeling you seek isn't on a piece of paper with your name printed in fussy calligraphy. I have one of those. It sits in a drawer. The printers didn't capitalize my name right. I never got it reprinted.

    Most people do what's expected of them, whether it really serves them or not. You struck out on your own and forged your own path, which is infinitely more impressive than someone who stuck around to hear "Pomp and Circumstance." Again.

    I love that you took your elderly charges to bars and to shoot pool and to recapture a part of themselves. And I admire your savvy and enthusiasm that I'm sure I've only begun to glimpse. All those things are who you are. Your life is just what it was meant to be. It can't be otherwise.

  3. Thank you Beth. You are very nice.

    Cortney - You didn't tell me you were going to Real Estate classes. Let me know when you want to come home. I'll pick up the tickets. I'll even pay for Jimmy. I miss you.

  4. IMO you are not only "a practical thinker" but a VERY wise one! -Brenda-

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