The profession I am in is one I often say picked me and I did not pick it. In my teens there was no other thought besides being a scientist (except wishing I could sign up somewhere to be James Bond). Having entered and won several of science fairs and breezing through chemistry, physics I & II and even calculus I thought for sure my future was in the sciences. Then purely by chance through a high school friend I ended up with a part time job in the profession I am still in decades later.
With parents who divorced when I was seven, I promised myself when my age was still single digits that I would get married only one time, period! That was one of the agreements with my self that kept me in a first marriage a decade longer than I should have been. Then I married a second time which ended in divorce which when younger I could not have imagined.
In my late teens and early 20’s I did what a good percentage of my male peers did: I grew my hair long. At one point my mane was 2/3’s of the way down my back. In the days when I thought of all in my age group as either “straight” (meaning square, un-cool, not-hip, straight laced) or a “freak” (long hair, liberal, cool, groovy) I swore I would never cut my hair. By 25 my hair was a business acceptable length.
Being an idealist is one of the reasons I left the Deep South. There was a restaurant in Jackson,MS next door to where I worked when I was 18. The owners did not like us long-haired folks and refused to serve us. Once they knew your voice, they would even hang up on you if you called for a take out order. That treatment was one of the primary reasons I left Mississippi for Colorado when I was 19 swearing I would never live “south” again. Now for over a decade I have lived in Oklahoma which definitely has a “southern” flavor even it if it more thought of as being west. What I know now is discrimination is everywhere. It is more overt in some places and covert in others. But it is everywhere.
In my “hippie freak” years I made the commitment to my self to never join the corporate world. I believed a person should be accepted openly no matter what they wore or how they looked. I still believe that today but also accept the reality that in business judgment of competence is made to a point by the clothing one wears to work. I made the compromise in my late 20’s when I realized the jobs I wanted were not held by people who dressed and looked like me. That was the year that for Christmas I wished for and got blazers, ties, and dress shirts and pants.
Once upon a time I dreamed of having several children, but today am grateful for the one son I do have. In another time I thought I would be living happily ever after in a foreign country but that seems like a pipe dream today. I promised myself I’d get in and stay in killer physical shape at some point in my life and got there around 40, but within a year it slipped away.
Making promises to my self was a good and necessary thing. And I know breaking them should not be taken lightly. On the other hand, few things work out the way they were planned, especially from the vantage point of youth. In my teens and even 20’s I saw the world in a very narrow way based largely on opinion and little on experience. I had to learn as John Lennon wrote in his song Beautiful Boy: “… life’s what happens while you’re busy making other plans”.
Today I am grateful for all the promises I made my self and all the lessons experience taught me. The ones I have kept taught me values and ideals. It seems the more ingrained the self-guarantee was that was broken, the greater the knowledge gained was. Being adaptable and living in the present is something I had to learn to do. Saying “never” has become a more rare personal expression for I have eaten far too many of them. Yet, swallowing those erroneous “never’s” were some of the greatest teachers of my life. I will always be grateful for the lessons learned the hard way.
The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present. Niccolo Machiavelli