The moments in my life that have altered my direction of pursuit are much more in number than I would have ever guessed. Timing would have to be perfect for me to be where I am now. The cliché, “You play the cards you were dealt”, adds a bigger excuse or perhaps a larger understanding of why life does what it does.
I’ve read many books and articles about manifesting what we want in life. In my own experience, I have manifested many things, and I didn’t realize it until they were in the present moment. Looking back, I can now see how they were the start of a sequence of events that put me where I am now.
When I was a senior in high school I was preparing to be launched into the adult world by both my education, and my parents. My mother’s famous quote was, “I hope the hell you don’t think you’re going to live here the rest of your life, Buster!” My high school reputation was a mixed persona. I frequently got into fights and was a supporter of the underdog. This often put me in the position of body guard for the weaker person being threatened or harassed, and I didn’t take much grief from anyone who challenged me either. I also was a loner most of the time which led people to form opinions about me without really knowing me.
On the other hand, I was hard working and liked to write, especially poetry. Oddly enough, my dislike for the mundane practice lessons in typing class led me to having a book of poetry published. (I’ll tell you that story later!) It seemed very unusual to have so much positive attention, and it inspired in me a want for more education, but at the time I felt college was out of my reach.
Nearing the end of high school, graduation only a couple of weeks away, there was one incident that turned out to be unexpectedly life changing. My class was the first to graduate from a newly built school, and on this particular day, a newspaper reporter was talking to our principal about the new school building we had been attending for the past six months. They were walking around the not yet landscaped grounds and discussing the plans in progress. I was watching, and noticed the principal reprimand a male and female student for holding hands while leaning on each other and talking during lunch break. It appeared harmless to me and everyone around, and his comments in front of the reporter were humiliating to them. For some reason, it really got to me. I thought it was unnecessary and demeaning, and I felt he owed them an apology for choosing to embarrass them in front of the reporter.
I decided to take it upon myself to straighten him out, and waited until lunch break was over and went to the school secretary. I remember being really upset, and felt determined to find the principal and tell him I felt it necessary he apologize to the two students. Noticing my clenched fists and angry look, the secretary wisely declined to tell me where he was. I told her that I’d search for him door to door myself. She waited until I was out of sight and called a couple of the coaches alerting them that I was on the search in the halls and apparently up to no good. Unaware they knew of my intentions, the two approached me in the hall and asked what I was up to. I nonchalantly replied that I was just taking a walk and as I turned around they suddenly grabbed my arms, subdued me and headed to the guidance counselor’s office.
The guidance counselor was quite curious as to what I was up to and asked why I had gotten so angry as to act in the manner I did. I told him my version of what had occurred, expecting that he’d recommend my expulsion. He asked why I would jeopardize my diploma so close to graduation. I was surprised to hear that he agreed with me, and that he’d see the principal about apologizing to the couple.
He then asked what I really wanted to do after graduation. I proceeded to tell him I really wanted to go to college but had no chance because I had taken all the wrong courses and I honestly felt that it wouldn’t matter if I graduated or not. “I’ll probably try to go to California and play music.”
He asked, “Do you really want to go to college?”
“Yes, I do really want to go to college.” I knew at that time I wouldn’t be able to and didn’t even know how to go about applying.
Back then I smoked cigarettes and asked if I could have one. ( This was in the early seventies.) He emptied a metal trash can for my ashtray, and said, “Go ahead, I’ll be right back.” He left and I sat there alone for a while thinking I’d be in major trouble with both the school and my parents. I assumed he’d be out negotiating for leniency on my punishment. To my surprise, he instead returned and announced, “You’re in college!” I was sure he was kidding or teasing. I was in shock and asked what he meant. He told me he had made a phone call and done a bit of checking and there was a Vermont State College in Johnson that had a program for students like me who had not taken the right courses but could attend in the summer for six weeks. If I could manage a “B” average I would be enrolled for the fall semester. It was news that had to sink in over a couple of days, but the initial feeling was overwhelming and I had a very confused gambit of emotions. It was wonderful and totally surprising.
That year I won the most improved student award at the Senior Banquet which was another shocking moment in my life. Things fell into place for that present moment and shaped a new path in my life. They seemed headed for disaster and yet turned out to be totally life changing in a positive way. There have been many twists and turns since then, but I realize things happen for a reason and my destiny is never totally what I had planned. Blessings and blessings in disguise. I love my present moment and the memories I have that got me here. Some were painful and some were delightful, and I’m glad to be here experiencing my present moment.
(c) Rick Wyman
Poem from my book, The Heavy Side, 1971.