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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Destiny and the Wheel of Choice*

*Johnstown, PA Tribune-Democrat April 18, 2010
as "Destiny and Wheel of Choice"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
All kids at some point dream about what they’d like to do when they grow up. I remember running through the normal male choices of astronaut, football/baseball, cop, fireman, helicopter pilot, etc. For girls, according to a study done by CNN in 2005 (the latest study I could locate on the Internet) their top three choices were teacher, lawyer, and doctor, along with nurse, fashion designer, scientist, writer, veterinarian, and artist. These choices flashed through our adolescent heads as we tried them on to see how they’d fit. At that time, we didn’t have to choose; time was on our side, so we were free to audition a lot of options. But at some point in our lives, it becomes necessary to make that choice.

The great thing about deciding on a career is that we are free to change it, and we often do. Multiple times, according to some researchers.

I’ve had three separate careers. Ten years in the Navy, 11 years with Caterpillar, and now with the Intelligence Community. In many ways, this path typified the path of many of my contemporary Boomers. The days when your career was tantamount to a marriage, staying with a single company for 30 or 40 years are past. Mobility is the new byword.

When I contemplated my future as a teenager, I could not have imagined that I would have had three vastly different careers during my adult life. The way my life has worked out has simply been completely different than anything I could have dreamed up.

There are days when I imagine some sort of temporal rift that would allow me to confront my younger self. The concept is pleasing, because I would have a lot to say.

1. Take education seriously. Your grade point and degree determine to a large extent the opportunities you can access.  If you choose to be a mediocre student, then look forward to a mediocre life.

2. Lose weight and live healthy. Three cardiac stents and one brush with death have taught me the importance of treating my body with more respect. All that could have been avoided had I made some better decisions early on.

3. Don’t depend on others for your sense of self-worth. All that effort spent trying to impress the “cool” crowd is wasted. After high school, you’ll never see them again. Concentrate on being the person that will impress the people you hope will hand you a paycheck.

4. It’s good to ask advice, but every decision must be your own. One of the weakest parts of contemporary humanity is the predilection to blame everyone else for our problems. In truth, the situations we find ourselves in most often are of our own making. Blaming others only makes real solutions impossible.

5. Save Your Money!  Every cool thing you’re convinced you can’t live without will break, go obsolete, or decrease in value. Money is better used for the future.  Even setting aside $50 a month in your 20’s can make a huge difference down the road.

6. Nobody lives forever. Life is both fragile and uncertain. Perfect health will not protect you from a drunk driver. Every time you walk into a convenience store there is the possibility you could walk in on a robbery. And there are a myriad of things our bodies can do to us, many with no warning whatsoever. Each day is, therefore, precious and priceless. Treat every one with the respect it deserves.

We all make mistakes and bad choices. The critical element is whether we choose to learn from them. The harvest of a successful and happy life lies in the seeds of the decisions we make and the values we cherish.

Grab the wheel; take control, and no longer will you be a victim of circumstance. You will be the master of your destiny.
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