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Reminiscing

(I’ll also join the club and do a post based off of Dancing About Architecture’s post, “Confused by it all…”, and also partially based off of Star’s Journal of Random Thought’s post, and Playing in Puddle’s post)

When I was a child, I had somewhat of a different life than the other kids around me, but for the longest time I didn’t actually know about it.  You see, I thought everybody’s dad got hooked to a machine every other night and had red Kool-Aid pumped through them (my mom and dad’s way of trying to describe dialysis in terms that wouldn’t frighten a young child, though once we did find out what it was we really didn’t think anything of it).  Once in school I quickly found out that my dad was different, but really other than the fact that it was harder to have friends stay over (couldn’t have them stay over on a night my dad was on dialysis) I wasn’t too different from other kids.

Each week I wanted to be something different when I grew up, though most of the time what I wanted to be was based around technology.  One week I would want to be a computer programmer, another week I would want to be a laser technician (lasers sounded so cool when I was young), the week after I would want to work at NASA, and then the cycle would start over again.  Interspersed would occasionally be thoughts about becoming a musician or a DNR officer, or the classics like a cop or firefighter, but those never really stayed in my mind much at that age.

Then came middle and high school.  For middle school I was still very sporadic about what I wanted to be, and this time the field got even wider.  Since I was hanging out in a library all the time, I too thought about becoming a librarian.  I loved/love reading, and I thought it would be awesome to be paid to be around books all the time.  I also thought about becoming a teacher, since I admired several that I had.

In high school I finally started really refining what I wanted to do.  Since I was in band, and since I found out that I was pretty good at it, music was actually starting to creep to the forefront of what I wanted to do, tied with computer programming.  I don’t know how many times I convinced myself that I was going to do one or the other, and at one point I was determined to enter I.U. and study both (possibly double major).  I’ve always had a bit of practicality in me, though, and computers won out simply because I kept hearing about how hard it was to get anywhere in life with music.  So on to college I went to study computers….

…. but I didn’t.  My parents, as good to me as they were (and are), didn’t have the money to send me to college, and the thought of all that debt scared me.  At that time, $40K sounded like so much money, so much that I’d just never be able to pay it off.  But a option “presented” itself to me in the form of Army recruiters (looking back, jeez, I really fell into their trap nicely).  They presented a option that seemed too good be true (…….): if I joined up with the reserves, I could earn a salary, get $20K for college that I could start using immediately, and my only commitment would be a few months at the beginning and then a weekend here and there.  I’d even earn higher ranks (i.e. more money) as time went on.

Well, I did join, and I will probably never forget those few months I spent in the Army.  The good: I dropped over 60 pounds in 8 weeks.  The bad: when I called home the week before graduation, I found out that my unit got activated, and if I graduated from basic training I was going to be on my way to Germany for a unknown amount of time.  In one of my not-so-proud moments, I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to go to Germany.  I wanted to go to college, not overseas.  Didn’t they know this?  So I failed my physical fitness test.  And failed the retest.  And not-quite-politely declined taking it again.  My sergeants quickly determined that I wasn’t going to pass the tests (even if they transferred me), and I was granted a ELS (entry level separation, also known as a “miscellaneous”) discharge.  This being the Army, it took me a good month and a half more to actually get discharged, but they got me home in time for Christmas.

When I came home, I actually had more money then I knew what to do with.  You see, I chose a job in the Army that got a signing bonus, half of which had already been paid to me (I, of course, never got the other half).  And while I was there I was receiving a salary but I had no expenses, since the Army took care of food, shelter, and clothing.  I had to buy the odd can of shaving cream or some toothpaste or whatever, but nothing else.  So here I was at home with over $3K in my bank account, but no real direction in my life since I still didn’t want to go to I.U. and incur all that debt.  And then it hit me: I could go to Ivy Tech!  I could earn a associate’s degree in two years, and the money that I brought home from the Army would pay for an entire year’s worth of college, and in that time I could work on the side and be able to pay for the other year.

And so I found myself attending Ivy Tech for a computer degree.  The campus was smaller back then, and the computer department had really just started gaining ground as a serious department (the nursing department ruled Ivy Tech with a rubber gloved fist, and still does to some degree).  It was actually at this point in my life that I had decided to stop trying to have a girlfriend.  I remembered all too well my varied experiences from high school, and I was determined to get my degree and be a bachelor for a while (the couple of bachelors that I knew lived quite well).  I was determined to not get married for a even longer while, and that I would just go out and have fun.

……….. heh.  It wasn’t even three months before I was dating again (albeit the the relationship was not a planned one in any way), and seemingly before I knew it I was engaged and then married.  Furthermore, in that time frame I had secured my first serious computer job and because of that I found myself going to less and less classes, till finally I stopped going altogether.  I had found that I both had less time for class work and I had less respect for the teachers, due to the fact that I was doing those things that we were learning for a living, and doing them better.  In those later classes, especially the database one, I didn’t have to study at all.  That may sound like a wonderful thing, but I found that I quickly got bored, and when it came time to sign up for the next semester and there were going to be some scheduling conflicts, I just stopped.

I actually keep telling myself that I should go back, that I should finish those last 4 classes and get my degree.  Heck, with the job that I have most people actually assume that I already have a degree.  I just happen to be one of those rare people who actually got most of their experience on the job, and that only happened because someone was willing to take a chance on a kid right out of high school with barely any college experience (hey, I was willing to work cheap, and this was actually at the time where the number of computer jobs outweighed the number of people to fill them).  Now, many years later, I actually have over 10 years of experience working in my field, which kinda makes a 2 year degree pale in comparison.  Should I go back and finish the degree?  Eh, probably.  It would be a nice accomplishment, though at this point pretty unnecessary.  Will I go back?  Who knows….

But to get back on track, I was now married, and my wife and I lived in a couple different rental properties over the next few years.  There really didn’t seem to be much direction to our lives then.  We’d go to work, come home and relax, hang with friends….  We were basically content to just live life day by day with no real purpose other than to make it to the next day.

And of course, the question of children?  Bah.  That’s for people who want to be tied down.  We wanted to live our lives unfettered, able to go out to Steak n’ Shake at midnight if we wanted, or drive up to Indy on a whim.  Obvisouly children didn’t fit into that equation too easily.  For a long while, we were certain that we were never going to have a child, that we would always be content to just have it be the two of us.

Over time, though, our thoughts changed, and having a child didn’t seem like such a bad idea.  The decision to go ahead and have a child was finalized partly due to math.  It was simple: we wanted plenty of time to enjoy ourselves after the child had grown up, and the longer we waited the older we would be when the child was finally old enough to leave home.  We did decide to wait a little bit, though, till we had a house and a bit more financial security.

Ah, how that time passed by so quickly.  We started trying to have a child, and it wasn’t but a month and my wife was pregnant.  The time while she was pregnant passed by even faster, though during that time I started having problems of my own.  I was having chest pains and some trouble even walking, and my wife finally convinced me to go see a doctor.  Time went on and I was forwarded to a specialist, but though I was worried about what was going on I was fairly busy planning for the eminent arrival of my child.  The room needed painted, furniture needed bought, arrangements with the hospital needed made….  I did the tests that the doctor ordered, but in my mind my problems could wait.

Then my daughter arrived.  I thought I had some life changing events before, but they were nothing compared to the impact that my daughter’s arrival made.  Almost every priority that I had changed overnight, and suddenly almost all of my free time was sucked away.  Oh, I didn’t have any misconceptions about how much time a baby can take up; living it is so much different, though.

Then, of course, I had to find out about my CKD.  ::sigh::  I’ve already said enough about that lately, so no need to go into a lot of detail, but just like having a baby it had a profound impact on my perception of the world and my direction in life.  One thought did go through my mind after I got home the night I found out:  thank goodness I already have a child.   Thank goodness I don’t have to make the decision whether or not having a child at all is a good idea, whether or not taking the risk of passing weak kidneys on is worth it.  I could go home and hold my beautiful daughter and not have to face the question that if I knew about my CKD earlier, would I have chosen to have a child or not.

Now nearly a year later, our daughter is a part of our lives and something my mother told me is quite true: it seems like she’s always been there.  I remember back to the time before her arrival and it seems almost shrouded in mist, like some faraway place that was beautiful to visit but I’ll never be able to go back to, at least not in the same way, ever again.  I know now, though, that even if I had a time machine I wouldn’t change the past (at least in regards to having my daughter).  Even though she can be a real pill at times, and I’m sure some of the things she’s going to do will take a year or two off my lifespan, I know that having her was the right thing to do, and I wouldn’t give her up even if it would cure my CKD and let me live another 100 years.

So does my life have any more direction now?  Eh, not really.  I mean, yeah, I have goals that I still wish to acheive, and there are things about my personality that I’m trying to change (realizing that I was (at times) a arrogant know-it-all ass is the first step in doing something about it; also, just working on relaxing more and trying to not let things make me upset is a big thing as well).  But do I think that I need to really have a direction in life?  Do I really think that I need to plan out everything so I can live life to the fullest?

Meh.   :)

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