In December 1983, It wasn’t even on the list.
I was cleaning out some piles in my Zombie room this afternoon and I found pictures and letters from a long time ago. Some of them hadn’t been touched in years other than to move them to a different location. I am a Master Procrastinator and only straighten things out in an occasional chaotic frenzy. Fortunately this does not happen often. Which explains why I found a list written on yellowed tablet paper in my unique handwriting from 1983.
In 1983, I was coming to the end of my second tour in the Navy on the USS San Francisco in Pearl Harbor and trying to make up my mind if I would stay in the Navy. The 711 boat was a good boat and we had a lot of adventures. But I was newly married and both of us felt loss each time I went to sea. The West Pac we had recently finished was very hard on everyone. Lots of people changed on the boat, one shipmate died tragically in Guam, and by the time we arrived home, we rode a hurricane into the Hawaiian waters.
But we made it home. It was time to reflect and see what the future held.
It was complicated for me since I was the boat’s Command Career Counselor. I was still a second class and almost thirty years old. A break in service after my first tour put me behind on the career path. Even though making First Class was just around the corner, I started to wonder if I could exchange those eight plus years for a nice civilian career.
So I followed the advice I had been giving to so many other guys and sat down and wrote a list.
Well, three lists actually.
The first list was all the things I would possibly want to do involving my “Imagination”.
The second list highlighted technical or labor related fields that I might consider.
The third list was all the things I didn’t ever want to do.
The imagination field was a category that would include using the spark inside of me that captures all of the stories and my desire to tell stories. As you can probably guess, journalism was at the very top of the list. Even then, I loved to write and I took great effort to engage in all kinds of writing. Debbie has most of the letters and journals I wrote back in the day. Some will never see the light of day. That is a blessing. I also envisioned myself as a politician or Foreign Service worker. Maybe even the FBI. But at that time, I did not have a degree of any kind and it was more of a pipe dream than anything else.
The second field was technical or labor. Looking back on that post, a better word would have been professional since it included policeman, firefighter, maintenance technician and for some unremembered reason “oceanographic researcher”. Many of the occupations probably made sense at the time because of my experience as a submarine Auxiliaryman. But to be honest, none of the ones on the list seemed like something I would really be excited about.
The last field was pretty easy. “Things not to do.”
At the top of the list were mostly service related occupation. No Hospital or Social Work. But the list also included:
- Tax collector
- Public transportation employee (busses or trains)
- Car salesman
- Gas Station mechanic
- Door to door salesman
- Office clerk
- Mill worker
- Coal miner
- Garbage collector
- Department store salesman
Now please don’t get me wrong.
All of those things are honorable professions. And it was 1983. Sadly, many of those jobs really would have been a career dead end anyway. The advent of the personal computer a few years later would chip away at some of those jobs and online shopping killed a few more. Changes in the economy and previous experience as a “union guy” soured me to most manufacturing technical work. I just didn’t have the temperament or desire for most of them.
So I made a critical decision that made the whole exercise moot.
In December of 1983, I reenlisted for the second time on the deck of the USS Bowfin in Pearl Harbor. By that time, I had sewn on my first class Machinist stripes and was headed to my fourth boat the USS Ohio. Within three years, I would make Chief as a Master Training Specialist and follow that up with Chief Warrant Officer. To be completely honest, the last three weren’t even on the list.
Along the way, I managed to complete my education using the GI Bill and the Navy’s very generous in service college program through Southern Illinois University. The curriculum and the program were designed for people like me to combine my Navy training, individual course work, core classes in the field of education, and some community college work. A guy who barely graduated high school got to take home a Bachelor’s Degree with honors. Not too bad
You never know what life is going to throw at you. If you had asked me in December of 1983 what I would be doing today, I would have wondered if I would actually still be around to answer it. But here we are. The funny thing is that most of my success in life (both in the Navy and in my second career) has been as a teacher. I would have never guessed that the very last thing on my list was the one that was the most rewarding.
Never sell yourself short. I’m glad I made the lists. I’m even gladder that I saved it. Maybe the part of me that is reluctant to throw things away exists so that I can help someone along the way with a lesson I have learned. Probably why I ended up teaching. (and occasionally preaching).