Monday, December 18, 2006

One Year And Still Blogging Strong!

Where has the time gone? One year since I created and published my first entry. At first, this was just a vehicle to keep me writing in between semesters in my junior year at California State University, Sacramento (Sac State). I didn’t really expect too much interaction from anyone and was quite flattered when I received my first real comment on January 6, 2006. It was the trickle that would become the flood.

I currently generate around 20 hits per day and get frequent comments from regulars and strangers alike. Each has meaning – I get excited every time I get an email alert telling me there is a new comment. I don’t necessarily write for the feedback, but if my words have touched someone else, then I have done my job. My writing is generally centered on my experiences and perceptions. I don’t try to be controversial, but I don’t avoid controversy either. Above all else, I try to be as objective as possible.

Those that regularly frequent this space know that I am in the final stages of completing my bachelor’s degree. It’s something I started more than 25 years ago – hence the title, The 25 Year Plan. In this space I have documented not so much the struggles and challenges of being a mid-40s undergraduate, but rather the essence of the experience. Not just the experience of trudging through years of school, but many of the other life experiences along the way.

I should add as an editorial note, nothing here has been very much planned. The vast majority of these pieces are written in their entirety in one sitting, usually in no more than a couple of hours. However, typos and ambiguities are repaired as they’re discovered… sometimes weeks or months later.

I always knew that I could write well. Even in junior high school and high school, where math, not English, was my strong subject, my writing always scored high marks. It was, however, an unwanted art. I not only underappreciated this gift, I completely turned my back on it for years and years in pursuit of a more “suitable” image/profession/identity. As a result, I never really knew myself. I could not and would not express myself. I denied my own existence in favor of a perceived image of what I thought others expected, what I imagined society required and one I was incapable of sustaining.

When I first embarked on my journey into the world of higher education, I knew a few things. I knew I couldn’t draw. I knew I couldn’t sing. I knew I couldn’t paint. I knew I had no musical or artistic talent whatsoever. I knew it. I also knew that I was pretty good at math and I was kind of into computers in their very early stages of consumerism. I had a Commodore 64 and was “online” before the Internet was even available to the masses. My dad is a Ph.D. chemist. It all looked pretty clear to me. It was my destiny that I would go into the sciences.

I couldn’t get into it. It was like I was mimicking someone else. I was stumbling around the grownup world only a child in a man’s body. It didn’t last. I returned home, still not having any real direction, but found employment at a time when the tech industry was booming. I rode its coattails for a long time. I found a “her,” we had a few of “them” and all that was left was a white picket fence.

However, like so much else in my brief history up until that point, it was not to last. In the early nineties, I became the single parent of three small boys, still feeling, and in many respects acting, like a kid myself. As I grew and the boys grew with me, I changed careers several times, moved a few times and finally, on October 17, 2000, everything came to a screeching halt. I nearly died that day and because I didn’t, I had ample time to think about my life for the previous almost 38 years.

At the time, not much made sense. After I understood what had happened (and why) weeks had passed and although I didn’t yet know it, there were many more weeks to come. I was waffling between gratitude and anger: gratitude because I was still alive and anger for the same reason. It was not a happy time, but I survived and today the ill effects are minimal.

Near-death experiences are often related in spiritual terms. The out-of-body experience, the great “white light” or the speaking with the dead – I have a take on all of these very personal interpretations, but there is a much more concrete residual effect. It is an attitude. I have become me. I really didn’t plan to; I didn’t even know that I wasn’t me. I think maybe it’s because I had nothing more to lose – I almost lost it all. And it’s interesting that it didn’t hit me as some blinding flash of light. I didn’t wake up from that haze and think to myself, “Oh yea! That’s the secret to life.”

Later, in my attempt at re-education one more time, I was tested proficient enough to enroll in an English writing honors course (freshman comp.). I threw caution to the wind and took it. And I got an “A.” And I liked it. And I liked my writing. And others did too. And I had an “art.” This no-talent, stumbling, bumbling, albeit nice guy, that had no identity to hang his hat on suddenly found that he too was blessed with a talent. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since then either, but that’s enough for now. I followed enough tangents already!

17 comments:

srp said...

Here from Michele.
My ex-MIL took 25 years to get her degree, raising kids and taking hours here and there. It is never too late to learn. Good fortune in your future.

Pearl said...

That's a pretty comprehensive study. I admire how you switched streams and rode out tough times.

BarBarA said...

One year? It seems like I've been reading your blog for way longer than that (I mean that in a positive way). I've heard your story before, but will read it again and again because it always encourages me, it's a great example of hope, determination and second chances. You inspire me, Mr. A. Happy One Year to you :)

Snaggle Tooth said...

Happy Anniversary!
A year of fun reading for us!

Blog writing is a good off the cuff exercise for me, too- the freedom is what I like about it, along with the interaction, of course.

Good luck finishing up that final week-!

Belizegial said...

Mike,

I can't say I've been reading your blog the whole year, but it's been at least half of that I would imagine.

As in most instances, I came across your comment in another's blog and then came over to see what your blog was all about.

It's been most interesting reading since then. Happy blog anniversary and kudos to you for finding your self through your writing.

Enid~

SzélsőFa said...

Hello, this is my first comment here. (not my first visit thogh...)
This entry was especially inspiring. From time to time I feel strange, misplaced in my present situation in which, I am, more or less content, otherwise. Blogging is a kind of therapy for me, too.

kate said...

you have made lemonade from the lemons. On an asside... I generally dont read lengthy posts. I just dont have the patience I think... but for some reason yours always seem to suck me in.I like your writing style.

I hope that when I wake up someday from the fog that seems to be hanging over me that I know the real me too. Ohhh that sounds like lyrics from a song! hehehe

Oh and you were up WAY early (or stayed up too late) to have posted this in CA!!

Carmi said...

Here's to many more years of reading your wise words - both in print and online.

I'm glad m blog path crossed yours, for so much of where you come from as a writer is familiar to my writer's soul as well.

Badoozie said...

all I can say, is I've been missing OUT for a whole year! You do indeed have a skill, and the degree will be the dollop of whip cream atop the desert.

i too have struggled with my identity my whole life, and writing is not my "forte' so to speak, I suppose it is just that my thoughts are so interesting? and they seem to make people laugh. so I suppose it's the ability to make people laugh that is more of my skill?

CyberKitten said...

Congrats on your 1 Year milestone and the best of luck with your degree. I got mine age 26 which was quite late - then went back in my 40's to do another one...

I think there's a few more left in me before my mind turns to mush...

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Happy one year blogging anniversary, Mike.

You know what they say about us folks, that we just find something else and replace it, and put our all into it. That being said, blogging is surely lots more healthy than other vices.

Happy Holidays.

Awareness said...

Hi Mike.

Well done, my friend!!

Glad you're out there writing your heart out......... I always love to visit and learn about you and your world.

Good to know the butterfly effect works............

Muskie.

Pearl said...

Oh yes, and happy blogging anniversary.

Came across a quote that seemed to fit here:

"Can you think of anything more permanently elating than to know that you are on the right road at last?"
- http://www.quotationsbook.com/authors/3590/Vernon_Howard

Biker Betty said...

Mike,

Happy Anniversary :)

LADY LUXIE said...

Congratulations Mike!

I was here some time ago but wasn't able to post a comment. I read about your son and I hope he's feeling better. I hope you're rested as well.

Your story is inspiring...your writing is calm and smooth..like..um'..a cool wine glass of Pinot Blanc...no frazzles..just smooth..which makes it a fine read...

You present to me a side of your country that seems to be so different from the other places in the US...There's a different feel when I see your pictures...like solid..secure..something like that...I can't word it...ah'..authentic??!

I wish you more writing success...oh' not just in writing...but in everything you do as well..

Keith said...

Kudos my friend! I look forward to reading much more from you, Mike. Glad our paths crossed a year ago!

And btw - I think I'm on a 25 year plan for my Master's Degree. Did all the classwork, never got around to writing that "thesis" thingy! HA!!

Terri said...

I just went back and read your other posts that you hyperlinked....unbelievable story! I'd say there's no doubt that crash was your wake-up call. I think we all get them...but the important thing is to listen when those calls arrive. I'd say you paid very good attention this time. And I love the saying "when we know better, we do better"....very apropos, I'd say.
Great post, Michael....all of them.