Life Choices

My first experience at being refused a life preference came when I was found to have color vision deficiency during induction into the military. That surprise discovery at age 19 prevented my entry into an electronics career. My alternate direction led me to meet my future wife. In later years I realized that electronics would have been a poor decision for me; my color deficiency, initially thought to have deprived me from a career choice, proved to have saved me from years of disappointment. And also led me to my wife. This was my first indication that, although we may try to plan our lives, life happens. We often fare better when our desires go unfulfilled.

This lesson was repeated to me when, after military discharge, I worked a number of unfulfilling jobs, including insurance adjusting and credit advising. I was fired for not closing cases quickly. Discouraged, and with my wife expecting our child, I reluctantly reentered the military in a full-time reserve capacity, working at a nearby airport. This was done solely to provide a stable income, yet it proved a positive direction in my life. I was not only successful, but the work was enjoyable and introduced me to what would become my career: computer programming and systems design. I had taken the position for short-term reasons, yet it proved again that life often goes best when we are not in command. Being fired had been devastating to me, yet led me to a better life.

When I was a teenager I failed at college, not for my grades, but because I had no direction. A successful student in high school, the road forward was covered in darkness. It was with a complete lack of planning that I entered the military, as I mentioned earlier. Had that professor not told me I was in the wrong career path, I could have become mediocre in that field, forever dissatisfied. It was years later that I grasped the impact of that event. Failure there led me forward. Years later, when I graduated, it was with a degree that broadened my view of life, not one that narrowed it to a career choice. Again, unplanned, yet better.

I know there are people whose lives go as planned; they attend their college of choice, they enter the career of their dreams, they marry their high school sweetheart, and their world is as they had foreseen it back when they were children. Their roads go straight, no forks or dead-ends. I am happy for them. There was a time when I also envied them. No more. Those many paths in my life enriched my life. Experiencing failure, success, new environments, new skills, different people, and new paths provides a diversity that is enriching. We can all be thankful for the many bumps and detours in our lives. They diverted us from where we thought we wanted to go, but we ended up where we needed to be. Life is good.