Atlantis Alumni

Monday, September 17, 2007

Personal Reflections On A Winding Path

Elgar's wonderful "Pomp And Circumstance" marches are often used at graduation ceremonies. Listening to these majestic processionals last evening reminded me of my own graduation from college, much delayed, in my mid-40s. I could really never figure out what I wanted to do in life.

You know, if I could go back and start all over again as a 20 year old, I still would not know what path to take. Political Science, Law, Music, History, Education, Philosophy, Ethics - these are all academic areas that I've been interested in at one point or another in my life. But then there is the tinkerer in me that has always been interested in things like home and auto repair, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, computers, and now toy train repair and restoration, my hobby these days that gives me pleasure.

So, I never had a real career. At one time or another, I worked in business, which I never liked, or as a hard hat refinery production worker, a mindless type of work that paid well, and left my mind free to dream and learn (I actually could read quite a bit on that job.) I ceased working in my early 40s and became a student/homemaker. Gradually I eased into early retirement and I have adjusted to this over time. While I am happy largely due to the wonderful, supportive relationship I have with my life partner of 24 years and my great animal companions, I do still wonder why it was my fate to have never been able to figure out how to utilize what talents I have. Did I waste my life, I sometimes wonder?

There is a line from one of Billy Joel's songs that I have often reflected upon: "I've learned that just surviving is a noble fight." I've managed to do that at least, and along the way I've done a few things I'm proud of. My gay rights and political activism come to mind. And, as I mentioned above, I've been extremely fortunate in terms of my relationship with my life partner.

There are always trade-offs in life. If I had been a careerist, then perhaps my personal life would not have been as good as it is today, maybe I would not have engaged in the political activism, and ultimately, perhaps I would not be as healthy and contented as I am today. In the final analysis, I don't want to go back and try again and I don't want to trade who and what I am for something else. We all have our disappointments, that's simply a part of life that we must accept. We have to be happy with ourselves in the end if we can.

Jim

Photo: A great September sunset over the Great South Bay

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The correct Billy Joel lyric was - "I found that just surviving was a noble FIGHT" That poor guy gets misquoted more than any other songwriter in the world.

Jim Kelly said...

Thanks, I stand corrected.

But Joel, a "poor guy?' No, I don't think so. He's pretty well off and has enjoyed great career success. Unfortunately, he couldn't handle the success, which is the kind of substantive thing I was aiming at in my blog entry.

Jim

Anonymous said...

The phrase 'poor guy' was used in the context of how often he has been misquoted by the press and bloggers which often leads to a repition of words he' never written. And although he went through a rough patch a few years ago, considering his extensive charitable work, his apparently happy relationship with his lovely wife, his sense of humor, and his continual ability to delight audiences more than ever around the world, it appears to me that he is handling his success very well.

Jim Kelly said...

I know what you meant, Anonymous. I wish the best for Mr. Joel. I'm a fan, that's why I quoted him to begin with. Being misquoted is part of the price of fame and success. However, my single word gaff was not a serious error that changed the meaning of the lyric. It was not a serious misquote. Picky, picky aren't we?

Jim

Jim Kelly said...

For the record, Joel has been in rehabilitation for substance abuse twice in this decade, and he has been married three times. Again, this is not to pile anything on an artist that I like, but simply to say that great success can often come at a high price and is not something eassily handled by certian individulals, like Joel. That was one of the points of this particular blog entry. I would have preferred that any comments be focused on the substantive issues I raised in the entry, rather than on one minor misquote.

Jim