This past weekend, as I often do, I posted a “list of planned activities” as my Facebook status – and the plans included some grocery shopping, watching the Cubs/Giants game, watching the Brewers/Cards game, grilling some beef, and then watching “Zero Dark Thirty” with my wife, and a beer. Or three.
Not exactly what you’d call a fast-paced, action-packed Saturday.
One of my Facebook friends commented “you are living the dream – I have a test today for licensure and then a trip out to Nebraska to play today and tomorrow”. I responded that I wouldn’t mind trading the baseball and grilling for his road trip to Nebraska to play with a polka band this weekend.
It’s all relative.
The commenter is a young man just completing his degree at Iowa State University, and is about to start his first job as a band director – just like his dad - in a few months. If he has half as much success in this profession as his dad has had, he’ll be amazing. I haven’t met this young man in person – yet - but I feel I know him. I’d never met his dad before we became friends on Facebook nearly three years ago. But now, with the tools of communication and technology that weren’t available even a decade ago, we can, to a certain extent, participate and share in other people’s lives. We can discover people with whom we have so much in common - and never knew!
I also commented to this young man that it seemed stupid that when a major, accredited University like Iowa State grants you a degree in Instrumental Music Education, you ought not to have to take a test that says you’re prepared to do it. In Wisconsin, if you graduate from one of our two law schools – UW or Marquette – you don’t have to take the bar exam. That’s the way it should be for every profession.
I also commented to the young man that I’ve been working since my first official job in 1964, and while I’m in life’s slow lane now, he’s just starting out – and is very much in the fast lane. He’ll work long hours, burn the candle at both ends, and – if he’s lucky – look back on it in his 60’s and regret none of it.
My Facebook friend and commenter is a bit younger than our son, Dru, who’s in life’s fast lane, too. After graduating from the UW Business School with a degree in accounting, and being on the Dean’s List all the way through, Dru had to take and pass a long (and expensive) test and had to work in public accounting for a full year before he could put “CPA” behind his name. Seems silly.
But both these young men are learning that often, life doesn’t make sense. You’re going to have to take tests you shouldn’t have to take, and overcome obstacles you shouldn’t have to overcome, and prove yourself to others in circumstances where you shouldn’t have to. As my dad used to say to me, life’s a test in making decisions. Make enough right ones, and you’ll be successful. Make too many bad ones, and you won’t be.
As parents, our children grow and develop to an age and place in life where we can’t make decisions for them. We hope we’ve given them a good example, and the preparation necessary to “make good decisions”. We’re grateful when they ask us for advice and hope we give good advice.
But they’re in the driver’s seat, and they’re in the fast lane. That’s the way life works. And I recall clearly as a young man putting in as many hours as our son did in the past few months of “busy season” for accountants – spending countless hours in a radio or TV studio, learning and doing – and loving every minute of it.
And I remember going on plenty of long weekend road-trips with a band, having a ball, sometimes getting home on Monday just in time to go to work, and then burning the candle at both ends all week – again and again.
I hope these young men enjoy it as much as I did; that they enjoy the fruits of hard work and the rewards of success; and that, when they reach their 60’s, as I did nearly 4 years ago, they’ll also enjoy a far slower pace of life.