How is it we get where we are?


What is it that gets us going and keeps us going. When we’re young it’s our parents. They bring us into the world, then they send us (to school, etc) and then we start going and doing on our own, choosing and being forced into doing.

This afternoon, friends and I talked about how we were sent sixty years ago where the state wanted us to go and do. It was shortly after World War II, the military draft was in full swing and all males were subject to the military draft. At my university I was in a class with a retired admiral and a retired captain. In the summer of 1950, shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War, we ran into each other on the street at GWU and, after greetings, I was asked what I was going to do about it. The “it” was not named, but I knew “it” was the Korean War which had just begun. I wasn’t prepared to do anything about “it”, but the next morning I was down in the naval recruiting office on Pennsylvania Avenue with the retired admiral and retired captain signing up for an officer candidate program. Thus, began my naval career, and my adult life. I grew up in the navy, directed by more senior officers.

In so many ways, in my day, entering adult life was controlled (directed?) by factors beyond my control. Those factors were built into society such as the draft and the military. But, in almost all aspects of life there were forces that pushed and pulled young people in particular directions. My choices, and those of most others my age were directed by people and institutions over whom and with which I had no control. I worked through a master’s and a doctor’s degree with expenses paid through the GI Bill. I was offered employment at George Washington University and then moved into a professorship because of my education, but also because of my military experiences and public school teaching. I loved my work (though I had my bitches and gripes). As the University grew and changed, I had many opportunities to do different pieces of work while still in my professor’s role.

So, one step through life led to others: marriage, husband, father, Sunday school teacher, summer swimming pool member, kid’s swimming meet worker and on and on. As I look back, I was always faced with opportunities, but some, such as military service, were not initially seen as such. Some were not planned for, and a few had to tiptoe through, but all have led to a full life.

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