My Thoughts, Looking Back 40 Years
Forty years? Has it really been that long? It doesn't seem like it to me - until I take time to look back and consider everything I have experienced. Why am I writing about it? Well, as a writer, I think I am obligated to write about such a milestone. And although I've not suffered from extraordinary circumstances or experienced any worldly events first hand, I've been blessed with encounters with so many wonderful people, and I've had the chance to be part of things that I think have made a positive impact in other people's lives. A simple man like me can't ask for much more than that. So for those folks out there around the world, just outside my community and in countries outside the US that take the time to read my blog sometimes - and for those of you who already know me...I thought I would share with you my reflections of my life after forty years.
Anyone who knew me as a young child - folks that remember back that far :) - could tell you that I was a shy little boy. Although I loved meeting people, I still didn't know what to say to someone when I met them for the first time, so I would just smile and react to whatever they did first. My, how the times have changed me; little did that little fella know he would one day be pretty outgoing and be willing to tell the world and everyone he encountered what he was thinking; even get up in front of people and teach them things! But I remember being the shy boy in Mrs. Osteen's class, and the only thing people really started to notice about me way back then was that I could draw pictures pretty well. That became my trademark through school; elementary all the way through high school. Some people that know me now would be surprised to know that. But I even have certain drawing phases I went through, and I remember them well. In elementary school I mainly drew animals, He-man figures, and transformers. In middle school, I started to try my hand in drawing more detailed transformers, as well as muscular action heroes. I specifically remember drawing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the backs of all my friends' yearbooks. And finally, once I got to high school, I began to focus on my drawing talent, drew self portraits, and drew pictures of my favorite athletes (mostly the great Michael Jordan), and sharpened my skills at drawing animals, other people I knew, and scenery. I even attended the Fine Arts Center of Greenville County for my artwork. I have fond memories of that senior year, despite my attendance there changing the entire dynamic of my high school days in twelfth grade.
Somewhere amid all the school days was my Greenville ARP Church youth group. Although I discovered a lot of my abilities in school, my church youth group is what helped mold me socially. Going to church on Wednesday nights kept me grounded. If it weren't for the youth group, I don't think I ever would have learned how to properly manage and control the old Fort Temper. I learned things that I took to heart from a very early age, and thankfully, the good Lord had a plan that somehow kept me from ever falling into the wrong crowd; ever caring too much about what other people thought just because I didn't want to try some of the things they were trying. At school, I even felt judged sometimes because I didn't want to be part of that crowd. I tried to fit in at a bare minimum, but the party scene that all the movies about high school showed never, EVER appealed to me. And that stuck with me through my college days as well. But the best friends a guy could ask for early in life grew up in the youth group with me. And of course my life wouldn't be the same without Big G and Cool C: you guys know who you are.
Then there were the Erskine days. Erskine College...a tiny private college in the middle of nowhere, in the small little town of Due West, SC. 'Due West of what?' they'd say. Never quite figured that out, but on the SC map, it is pretty due west of Columbia, SC I guess.
Anyway, the people I met at good ol' EC helped bring this simple artist out of his shell. I discovered in college, at least according to some, that I could sing. So I joined the Erskine Choraleers, where I met some of the kindest and most talented people I will ever know. I met one of my favorite instructors ever - Dr. Porter Stokes, who taught me more about myself than he would probably realize. I met girls I had crushes on; I was a sucker for pretty eyes and an angelic voice. In my four years with the Choraleers I was able to travel throughout different parts of the South, and got to experience singing in some of the largest cathedrals in Europe. I even had the opportunity to serenade girls and make a fool of myself...but I don't regret a single note. I'd do it again if I had the chance.
While at Erskine I also made friends with a host of brothers from a society on campus called the Euphemian Literary Society, and some of those guys made lasting impressions on me that I enjoy reflecting on to this day. Some of the funniest times I ever had were as a 'Euphie.' I got to be the society's Recording Secretary and Sergeant at Arms; even got to draw my fair share of T-shirt designs for our dance events and formals. But the camaraderie and brotherhood - that was something I will remember to the day I die.
Those are the days that seemed to go by at a slow pace. I can look back at those times growing up and relish the things I learned and the things that I got to enjoy. But where has the time gone since? My adult life has seemed like a whirlwind. As I tell participants in my classes when I train, I've been everything from an elementary PE teacher, to a personal trainer and Wellness Director, to a police officer - and somewhere along the way I was also a bouncer! And I think it is safe to say that I've experienced just as many influential events in adulthood that I did the first 18 to 22 years of my life. But I see what my grandmothers meant when they always told me when I was a boy: "Enjoy it while you can, Jason, because when you grow up, time sure will fly!" my Nannie and Granny would say one way or another.
I've been blessed to experience what it's like to teach young children some of their first exercises and sports, and see the results later in life. I've been blessed with the opportunity to send a couple of people who were morbidly obese in a better direction, and witness physical change for the better. I've been blessed to encounter people who were perhaps not in the best states of mind, at just the right place, at just the right time, to perhaps keep them from making a mistake they'd permanently regret. And I've been blessed to keep people safe from harm, arrest dangerous people and put them where they belong, and make people feel safer about where they work. And I got to experience all that, AND meet the girl of my dreams and have the son I always wanted on top of all that!
So to sum it all up, if you took the time to read this, you can see I've had a pretty good life. If I complain, it's usually about the world and all its faults...but it is rarely about my life. I consider myself very fortunate to make it to where I am, and I couldn't have made it this far without the loving support of my family, my friends, and of course the divine providence of God. But after taking the time to write this, and seeing how short the last paragraph was compared to all the stuff before - I can't help but think that God has a lot more in the works for this simple man. If you've had a part in sharing this life with me, and taken the time to get to know me, whether personally or just reading my books or blog - thank you. It's been a good 40 years; here's to hoping I have at least 40 more! Cheers!