Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Paul Richardson: Where is this road leading?

(Paul Richardson's column, The Horse I Rode In On, runs weekly in the Neosho Daily News, Seneca Post-Dispatch and on the Turner Report.)

The school bus traffic is a reminder that the local short people population are returning to their assigned task.

It seems so early in the year due to the fact that I can recall a day that the fall semester didn’t start until after Labor Day. Even with such a late start by today’s standards, our sentence was completed, and we were released from this obligation before Memorial Day weekend. 

Summer vacation consisted of a full three-month period filled with a variety of activities, some fun and recreational, but mostly work.

For some of us the work portion was predestined due to belonging to a family that owned a business. Others that I knew spent the summer hauling hay, working at Shank’s Farm north of Granby, or another task that seemed even less inviting. There were a few individuals that I knew that led a life of leisure, unoccupied for the entire summer vacation, but there were very few of these rare creatures. In the end, after being aware of the task that had faced the others, I was quite happy to have been mandated a job for the summer.

The beginning of the school year always marked a fresh start. This was the time of year that I received any new clothes that would be purchased. There was fresh paper, pencils, and other school supplies. 

At that time the list was not very long, requiring just a minimal number of items. When the time came that we were purchasing as parents for our own children, the list had grown considerably and included many new components that I would never have imagined as a child. 

Recently, the good wife and I were in town where I noticed that not only are lists published and located at local retailers, some had gone to the effort to simply pre-assemble the required items and package them neatly in a brand-new backpack. Everything ready to go, just buy and fly!

Every year preparations were made, school began, classes were attended, and studies were completed. 

Year after year until all of elementary and secondary education had been accomplished. Then it was off to the next stage. Applications were made, acceptance letters received, decisions, decisions, decisions, and finally a choice. The following August it was off to the University. The road extended on and the expectation was that at this point a decision had been made as to where it led. That, however, was not the case for me.

The dreams in my head were never able to settle on the path that would take me to the desired outcome. So, for the next several years I struggled with where I was headed and how to get there. Finally, I just settled. 

Don’t misunderstand me as this is not a complaint, more of a personal observation and opportunity to allow you to tag along. It’s been a good life. We have been blessed and enjoyed some good fortune, living a very comfortable life along the way.

By comparison, I just witnessed a young man that grew up in our house, graduate from University of Arkansas. This person has known since the early days of high school what he wanted to do, how he wanted to do it, and what the personal cost would be to do it his way. He has stayed focused on his goal and now has a wide spectrum of opportunities, each of which can serve as a vehicle to take him to a clear destination. We are very proud of him and are now aware that the environment that we were providing will yield a variety of outcomes.

So much of this depends on the individual, however. The good wife and I followed two different paths. Each of our children followed different paths and now our first grandson has followed a unique path to a specific end. 

The ones that reached the desired destination had a clear end result in mind. That may be my problem as I have never figured out what I want to be when I grow up. I have had the distinct and unique ability to do whatever it was that I attempted. 

Due to that I never settled on any specific destination. The grandson noted a few months back that I wouldn’t probably be able to replicate my past in today’s world. I believe that he may be correct.

A brief bit of advice: as a person, city, community, organization, church or whatever, figure out which road to follow to get to the desired destination. 

Don’t be like me, not knowing what you want to be when you grow up. Figure out where this road is leading. If it is not the right place, change roads now! Stay tuned, more to come.

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