by J.L. O'Dell
Are we in charge or is it all written down somewhere/
|What makes me, me? I think therefore I am me. Or am I? Do I think or am I following a plan that was written for me? Am I a product of my heredity, my education, my life experiences or as I have heard some folks say during my life, everything about you is already written down? The date of your birth, your death, what will happen to you during your life is preordained. Do I have free will to make my own mistakes or were all the stupid mistakes I made over the years just waiting for me to fall into them? Some type of trap. What of my successes? Were those also preordained?
I prefer to believe that I am a product of my own choosing. That I have molded myself into who I wish to be as a man. My experiences in life have played a big role in how I feel about things. I was bullied in school. It started when I was in the 7th grade. My abusers would bully me in study hall and on the bus ride home most time. I learned two things from that experience. First off, I could put up with it or I could fight. I chose to fight. I didn’t win all the time, but I won enough to convince my abusers they were not going to intimidate me. My second lesson – I hate bullies to this day. Was that experience predetermined for me? What about the outcome? When faced with a choice, I decided to follow one path over the other. Was all of that written down somewhere in some giant book?
Once out of high school I decided to join the Army. I came from a poor family and I knew this was my only chance to be able to go to college. I was from a rural area and the school could only provide one $500 scholarship. Of course, the school counselor didn’t offer me choices. I saw the Army as the only way I could accomplish my goals. I never regretted that decision. Now as I write this piece, I have to ask – did I make it? Over the long haul I did go to college and earned 2 Associate Degrees and a BS degree.
My plans changed from joining the Army to go to college to loving what I was doing. So, I stayed and had the greatest adventures anyone could hope for. Of course, there were hard times. I didn’t make a great deal of money, I spent time away from home and people I cared for. But I will never trade my memories of sleeping under the stars while on patrol, freezing my butt off manning a foxhole in West Germany along the border, and again on the North/South Korean border. Nor will I ever regret the many other hardships because they made me who I am today.
I married several times badly. Not being a quitter, I keep trying until I got it right and we have been together 20 years now and we couldn’t be happier. Did I make those choices to try and fail or was I merely following my destiny?
After I retired from the Army I struggled for several years. When I retired no one wanted to hire a veteran. At least, not in the area I lived. I did manage over that ten-year period to secure a few good jobs so I could support my family. All of that was planned I suppose. What was the plan, to make me stronger?
In 2000 I was offered the opportunity to go get into law enforcement. Why? Not because of anything I did. I was working at Walmart for wages much less than I was worth. But weeks before I allowed my wife to talk me into getting a dog. As fate would have it, I guess, people drove by our house and saw the dog. It turned out they had the same type of dog, same colorings, but that dog died. So, they stopped, and we talked. As it turned out, the husband was the city supervisor for the town that I lived outside of. Long story short I was offered a chance for a position at the police department. It was an uphill battle, I had no experience, but I was hired and proved to them that I learn quickly and can do anything well.
This opportunity, plus my wife was hired by the police department in a neighboring town, allowed us the opportunity to plan our retirement. Or did we? Could all of this have been decided the day we were born? Did some all-knowing power jot down how our lives would turn out or are we truly the masters of our own destiny? I still don’t know for sure, but I prefer to believe that I am in charge of my own fate. Perhaps that is ignorance or arrogance, but you must decide for yourself as you stumble through life. Are you in charge?
Honorable Mention in