Tuesday, August 25, 2015

And Sorry I Could Not Travel Both

yesterday was the 47th anniversary of a significant milestone in my life, and i spent much of the day thinking about what my life was like 47 years ago.  i had just begun a new job, my first full-time "adult" job.  it was a job i had taken by default--more about that later.  my boss was unpleasant, and the duties he assigned me were not what i had been promised when i accepted the job.  each day was a torture, but i made it through the year for which i was contractually obligated before moving on to another job.

this was at the height of the vietnam war, and i, like many other men my age, faced difficult choices.  as a college student, i had been exempt from military service, a privilege that i had qualms about, as i watched other young men sent off to the war because they could not afford to attend college or they had not been fortunate to receive an education that permitted them to enroll.  when i graduated, i received a grant to study for my masters in special education, a field that was just emerging, at least in our state.  i had worked in a camp for special needs students the previous summer and felt called to work with these young people.  i knew, though, that if i began my masters' work, the draft board would call me up, and i would be shipped across the pacific, very likely to die fighting a war i opposed.

i had few choices: i could accept the grant and take my chances (which weren't very good), i could flee the usa for canada or another haven perhaps never to return to my home, or i could accept a job that allowed me to continue my exemption.  i chose the last and have always wondered what would have happened had i taken the second alternative, the one i felt most positive about.  yet that choice, too, seems cowardly.  so many of my peers who did not enjoy the privileges i enjoyed had no choice; when they were called they had to go.  there were no draft-exempt jobs or colleges open to them, nor could they afford to flee to another country.

the choice i made set me on a path that i continued for my entire career.  some of the jobs i accepted in my field were wonderful, others, like my first job, were miserable.  yet all-in-all those years were good ones, providing a decent income for my family and yielding a good retirement when the time came.  even the bad jobs provided much personal satisfaction along with the hardships.  it's amazing how a single choice can affect so much of what follows, and in the end it's fruitless to consider "what if" as we look back on the choices we've made.

may we each rejoice in the life we've been given on this beautiful planet.  may we be grateful for our family, our friends, the many joys we experience.  may we do the best we can with the opportunities we're given, without regret for not having chosen another path.  shalom.

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