Is it nature or nurture? Are we a product of where we’re from, or can life’s lessons mold and shape who we become?
I wonder about all of this from time to time, especially when I’m living inside my head.
My life’s taken an interesting series of twists and turns from when I left my hometown of Lisbon Falls and began the life journey that many of us make. At that time I thought baseball was going to be my way forward. When you’re 18 and can throw fastballs by most of your high school opponents, it makes you think “invincibility.” Of course, we quickly learn how that works out. Life isn’t as easy as overpowering opponents (unless you have the backing of the U.S. military), or even sneaking a backdoor slider by a hitter.
Some of my college-bound classmates, a bit less athletic maybe, paid attention to things like academics. They selected majors that put them in a better place career-wise.
When I was in my early 20s, I began working a series of jobs, rather than pursuing a career. Partly this was due to pitching a few too many innings back before anyone talked about pitch counts for high school power pitchers. I ended up struggling through shoulder injuries at UMaine and it wasn’t long before I was sick of it and off to find another path. This included a five-year detour through a fundamentalist Baptist theme park.
I am a curious person by nature. While I wasn’t a great student in school; I lacked the ability or perhaps the tolerance to push through things that bored me. However, when something captured my attention, it captured it completely. This became my trademark MO after leaving the comfortable and familiar hallways of Lisbon High School, or standing on the mound for the Greyhounds, like king of the hill.
What interested me in my early 20s usually wasn’t anything that made me marketable. Teaching myself to play guitar, or buying a four-track and recording lo-fi songs in my basement never added a dime to our family’s bank account.
Being 25 and shutting off customer’s power for non-pay for CMP wasn’t what I envisioned 8 years earlier. I thought I’d be pitching in the big leagues by then, not having “friendly” Mainers turning their dogs on me, or even a gun one time. People get crazy about their electricity.
Music was an interest of mine, dating back to when I was seven or eight and listening to top 40 hits on my first Precor transistor radio. When I was in high school, my posse liked music that wasn’t played on the radio, although at some point, it became “classic,” and then, I had to detour off into more obscure paths for my music.
The mid-1990s found me hosting Saturday night indie rock shows on WBOR, the Bowdoin College station. While I would never be confused for a Polar Bear, my shows were well-received and respected by the indie rocksters that cared for this kind of thing. I knew my Polvo, Slint, Guided by Voices, and a host of other bands as well as any 20-year-old, now 10 years my junior.
One good thing that my blue-collar meter work allowed me was the opportunity to go back to college and take my amalgamation of credits I had from stints at UMO (where a shoulder injury ended my baseball aspirations) and Purdue North Central (while logging time working as a prison med tech), and apply them towards a degree in business, with a minor in marketing.
My long, strange trip of a life’s journey finds me sitting right where I need to be here in 2013. Sometimes it feels like I’ve woken from a dream and got dropped into the middle of a job market that isn’t what any of us were prepped for in school, back in the late 1970s.
No teacher ever told us back in 1978 that the only thing you’d have going for you in 2013 is a set of marketable skills, and free agent landscape that guaranteed you nothing but a chance to bid those skills and propose a project. If you were lucky, the company would like your proposal and offer you some work for a few months, a year, perhaps two at best.
Weirdly, the world seems to have caught up with me. Now others see me, the JBE, and think I’m some kind of free agent superhero.
I’m not, but I’m learning what it takes to stay afloat in an economy that actually was being set in motion back in the 1970s. Of course, they didn’t teach us any of this in school.