I was watching this video of Jordan Peterson and it made me think about my life…again. Peterson is an extraordinary specimen of Homo Sapiens. This man gets it.
On gratitude for life and living. He is spot on. Has my life always been a grand adventure. By no means, has it been. I grew up the child of an alcoholic. I was poor. I remember summers through which a decent meal was a miracle of giving. Father was a drunken fool out on a binge. Mother absconded with us to some secret location to avoid his violence. Extended family ignored us and were embarrassed by us.
But we made do. We laughed and loved each other and lived. We survived.
In the end, by some divine intervention or just plain old perseverance, my four siblings and I grew into successful adults. Each of us have had our trials and tribulations. Each of us received guidance and assistance along the way. In the end, though, we’ve all had successes and have become as independent and productive as we could not have dreamed growing up with an abusive father.
I often tell people that I was held back 18 years in life. I didn’t come out of my childhood and grasp the reality that my life was of my own choosing until I was 30 years old. Part of that is that I joined the Army when I was 17. One abusive relationship to another.
The Army didn’t know what to do with a kid like me so it shunted me aside. In time, though, I learned how to thrive in the Army system. A few years later, I outgrew the Army. It seemed to me that it held me back from something. Perhaps, I was right. Time will tell. I said my farewells to the Army and rejoined the rest of the world as a sovereign individual.
I am grateful to the Army. I was allowed to grow up there…with some guidance. I was fortunate in that system. It can destroy many people like me. The shiftless person who is distrusting of authority. A combination of negligent leadership and good leadership pushed and pulled me along.
After leaving the Army and joining the civilian world, I attended a bit of university. Both traditional and non-traditional.
One day out of the blue, I was called by a representative of KBR and thus began my journey into the wider world. I was conscious of the world but, even though I’d traveled in the military, I never completely accepted that it was there. Yes, I’d traveled in the military. I’d been stationed in Germany, Egypt and Korea. I’d traveled to France, Panama, Israel, and Jordan. I didn’t spend a great deal of thought on the rest of the planet, though. It was there. I’d probably die without seeing it.
After KBR hired me, I broadened my scope. Accidentally. at first. Then with purpose. I traveled to Thailand. Then all over Southeast Asia. Then China. Then the Middle East and other parts of Europe and the Mediterranean.
After KBR, I joined other outfits. MPRI came first. Then Mantech, AECOM, Dyncorp and Raytheon. I was a clerk at first. Then I moved on to become an advisor working with various parts of the Afghan National Defense Force.
I met extraordinary people and witnessed extraordinary events. I felt danger closely. I was shot at and bombed and rocketed and mortared. I felt death first hand and heard it whisper my name. Yet, I do not fear death.
Why? Because I felt that I had lived and was grateful to have lived as I had for as long as I had. Death had no hold over me nor the fear of death.
That brings me back to Mr. Peterson. Yes, life is suffering. Yes, I had experienced suffering. I’ve also experienced joy, love, passion and exceptional pride in accomplishing something greater than myself.
I had help along the way. Yet, the major decisions and many minor had been mine. I chose to go. I chose to live. Others helped me along the way. Opportunities had been extended. I chose to take those opportunities and to succeed within the scope of those opportunities. No one forced me to do so. I did not allow fear to hold me back. I took chances in life and those chances paid off for me.
None of those opportunities or successes would have come my way had I not chose to take hard paths along the way. I would not be who I am had I not suffered along the way.
For all of that, I am extremely grateful.