I had always believed that once I reached a certain age (56) I would be able to provide a rational response to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up.”
Answer: “Grown up.”
I don’t think I’ve arrived yet. Not in any of the ways that seem to matter most.
Dad was always a grown-up. I mean, from the time I was old enough to evaluate my Dad as a person, he was always a grown-up. Always responsible; always gruff, yet loving; always knowledgeable. He was his career in many ways. He left for work every morning, and always returned home in the late afternoon where we breathlessly awaited the Excedrin™ count for the day. Whereas I had always squandered my day thinking of viable excuses for why I hadn’t roto-tilled the garden as instructed.
Dad was a creature of habits. Some were stereotypical of the day: the image of Dad sitting on his throne every evening in front of the TV, watching his favorite shows, for instance. There was, of course, the “goblet.” (The family will love this one.) This was the glass he kept on top of the fridge for his own use. I believe, when this particular habit started, his drink of choice was Tab; a diet cola that always tasted to me like what would happen if you added arsenic to otherwise perfectly good Coke. He never rinsed this glass. It was always coated with a film of some darkish-brown material that, when he decided he wanted a drink of milk instead, would swirl into the milk and gross out the entire family. On the rare occasions when Mom would be disgusted enough to actually rinse and clean the glass herself, Dad would grouse about someone “rinsing my goblet!” As if this were cardinal sin.
I always swore as a youth that I would NEVER be like my Dad. So of course, in the classic example of karma, I am my Dad in so many ways.
(Note to my mother: I do NOT have a goblet. Between you and my wife, I have been trained better than that. What I have, instead, is a stockpile of more or less useless stuff that sits next to me on my couch and which I always resolve to go through and “do something” with, but never actually do. About twice a year I finally get motivated to throw stuff out so that I am left with a much smaller pile from which I can grow a new one.)
Take career path, for example. Dad had the choice – in fact had been offered positions – to teach either music or physical education at a local college. He chose aerospace. He looked to the future, decided to get in while it was trying to establish itself as a growth opportunity for the future, and did 42 years of hard time with it. Never finished college in the sense of getting an actual degree, but knew more than most of the lawyers who worked for him for many years.
My own career path followed a similar course. I vacillated between getting a degree in music or history with an eye toward teaching at the college level, but likewise never finished school and instead broke into (surprise!) aerospace. Been with it for 30 years now. Don’t know if I’ll make it to 42 like Dad, but will come close if I’m allowed to retire when I think I can actually afford it. Just need to avoid getting laid off during a hostile administration. I probably know more than at least two people I can think of. Close enough.
The thing is, until quite recently I still identified myself as a musician/actor if anyone were to pin me down. That’s what I am, I would think to myself; that’s what I do. I may be a web programmer by avocation, but if you scratch the surface the tiniest bit, I am an artist. And artists, as we all know, are far too flaky to ever be considered grown up. I was quite comfortable with this self-perception for many years.
Then, being a man of some spiritual qualities, I began to see a shift in the priorities. The Lord, that Great Architect of life, has been seen to be nudging me into different roads and pathways in recent months. For example, whereas I had at one point no fewer than 4 music callings simultaneously at church, I now have only one. (That one being Priesthood Chorister, from which there apparently is no release in this life, nor in the life to come.) In their place I have been called to serve in the arena of Family History, which I also love.
It’s not that a shift in callings has changed what I am, or even changed my perception of what I am. It has everything to do with how important things have become in my life. Music will always be important to me. I cannot envision a life that has any meaning without it. But my focus has shifted almost entirely to genealogy and the Spirit of Elijah. I took a hiatus from Chorale this year so I could focus more of my time in this tremendous work. I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching Indexing both in our ward as well as at our local FamilyHistory Library.
Once this shift occurred, I realized something that became the spiritual equivalent of a 2×4 applied to the side of my head: my Patriarchal Blessing refers to two aspects of my life with different emphases. Of talents (yes, plural) it says I have them, and will use them to “bring joy to others” and have a sense of accomplishment. This I have done. It doesn’t really say much more than that, though. By comparison, I am expressly told to do genealogy and go to the temple to do the work. For this effort, it says, I will be seen as a savior by those who receive those blessings. Not because I sing at all well, but because I was able to provide saving ordinances for their souls.
I have so many blessings in my life. I have a wife who loves and supports me, flaky as I am, in everything. My four children and one granddaughter are beautiful and healthy. (Well, my son is healing up after a biking accident, but is still reasonably healthy.) I have a good job and prospects for a reasonable retirement. My wife and I would love to serve a mission together when the time is right. And, of course, I have a testimony of the Savior.
On second thought, maybe I am growing up.
At least a little bit.