Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Young Soldier's Journey to Find Himself

I was very conscious of how out-of-place I felt in school anymore. I never really liked high school much anyway, I never really fit in with the jocks. You know, those guys who eat, drink and sleep sports and take it all too seriously. I knew, even then, that beyond high school, those guys, who had once been big men on campus, would just become ordinary people as soon as they graduated. I was never very athletically inclined. I had tried out for the football team once, played one game and immediately decided it was not for me.

 A lot of the kids in high school were headed either for farming or college. Those kids had a purpose for staying in school and graduating.
My parents were poor, we didn't own a farm, just a house and ten acres with woods. I knew my parents couldn't afford college and frankly, the idea of four more years in a learning institution just didn't hold any appeal for me. Too boring.

I was much more interested in cars than sports and books in those days. But in Indiana, sports and farming was everything, especially in high school so that pretty much left me out of the ‘cool’ loop. I had great grades in school until I reached high school and decided what I'd rather be doing in life, which wasn't hitting the books.

Besides, I thought the guys who liked cars were much cooler anyway. I could relate to cars. Cars were something tangible, steel and chrome you could touch and work on. I was able to see and feel the satisfaction of a job well done when I worked on a car that had stopped running. Maybe there were no trophies involved, or a sweater with a letter on it, but there was a feeling of deep accomplishment from fixing and customizing a beautiful car.

In the 1960's cars were everything.
Everybody wanted to be seen in a hot car, even farm boys, jocks and yes, girls too.

The part time job I had recently landed as a bag boy at the local Kroger’s grocery store gave me a small taste of the adult world. In summer, weekends and holidays off, while those other kids were hanging out at drive-ins trying to pick up girls, I was helping little old ladies with groceries to their cars. But even that bit of responsibility was not enough for a boy in a hurry to grow up, the small responsibility of that job only made me hungry to experience more of what the world had to offer.

I felt like most of the crap they were teaching in school was junk I’d likely never be using in real life anyway. I fancied myself as older than my high school peers. Maybe not in years, but in my mindset. Just about everything they thought was important, I viewed as being useless.

I already felt that what was important in high school, would matter very little in the real world. 

Growing up, I had jobs as young as age 12. I picked berries one summer to earn money, later on I delivered newspapers every day after school and on weekends. I was used to hard work, the kind of physical labor you do with your hands, not always your head. 

 I think seeing my parents work so hard all the time, I grew to appreciate the value of it all and the value of money. Oh, I was smart enough, but school just couldn't hold my interest long enough for me to care about it much.

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