Part 3 of reflections and journal scribbling on my life as I celebrated my 50th birthday.
In post 1, I reflected on the spiritual, personal and family areas of my life. Post 2 addressed the social, professional and financial priorities of my life.
Today: I'll focus on experiences.
A friend and colleague once introduced me as someone who had "packed a lot of living into my life." I like that. I do enjoy life. And I enjoy variety. One of the nicest comments ever made on a peer evaluation is that "Neal is a true renaissance man." As I continue reflections on my 50th birthday, here is a "top-of-mind" list of experiences that have contributed to who I am.
- Since you're wondering, yes, the picture is me climbing at "Rocktown" in northern Alabama.
- I have visited 29 countries,* many of them multiple times. I have lived in 2 foreign countries (3 if you count Texas - and I do.)
- There are only 2 states - Rhode Island and Hawaii - that I have not visited. @swimcoachjoan visited Hawaii without me. Never again should that happen.
- I define a career as "a field in which, after one year on the job, you imagine you could do that until retirement. I have had seven.**
- I grew up in a home located on a dirt road. I had woods to explore and fields to drive in or ride a motorcycle through for hours on end.
- My 9 years of firefighting/rescue showed me poverty I had never imagined and the results of poor choices, primarily through the modeling of others.
- I hold associate, bachelor, master and doctorate degrees.
- I have solo backpacked in wilderness areas and have encountered bears in the wild twice.
- I worked hard for 3 years in high school to make the starting defense football team. I dislocated my elbow in the 2st quarter of the 1st game of my senior year and missed the rest of the season. I ran 42 miles in summer training that year: 7 miles for each minute I played. We lost.
- My granddaddy had a huge impact on my life. We enjoyed simple things together: afternoon naps, learning (at his insistence) to drive slower than the speed limit, trot line fishing, exploring beaver dams and a quiet peace that comes from faith.
- In 1979, I had lunch with Senators Herman Talmadge and Sam Nunn in the Senate Dining Room in Washington, DC.
- I met "Miss Lillian," President Carter's mother at Rock Eagle 4-H Camp. I was giving Billy Carter's daughter a "goodbye hug" at the time. I think "Miss Lillian" was amused.
- At the risk of repeating myself, I'll say again that 25 years ago, I married my best friend. Together, we've reared two children who have taught me responsibility and the impact of long-term investment in others.
- I have been surrounded by dolphins, some of them leaping from the water, while sailing.
- I have seen people die. And, I have seen babies born. I don't really understand either, but I do know that one inevitably leads to the other.
- I know the power of optimism, for I have observed the consequences of the opposite. Most days, I am a realist, believing the glass is neither half-full nor half-empty, but rather the wrong size to begin with. The other days, I'm an optimist.
- I turned down a job with Lockheed after college graduation, telling the recruiter I was "too talented to do work in an engineering pool doing time studies." (Ahh, the arrogance of youth.) Six months later, with less than $100 in the bank, I accepted a job with a German equipment company and began travelling the world. Our team closed and managed contracts wort millions of dollars in the late 80's.
- I wrote the first draft of this post sitting on the pier on St. Simons Island. I took a break to watch fishermen land a 2' shark and a sting ray with a 4' wingspan.
- I played on the first soccer team my high school fielded. I payed goalie because I didn't (and still don't) like to run.
- On my 40th birthday, I went mountain biking in the Czech Republic and have completed Century rides (100 miles) multiple times on a road bike. I much prefer screaming down a mountain over grunting my way to the top. I will grunt to get to scream.
- I have been asked to leave a lot of places because they were not friendly to inline skaters. That stinks.
- There are over 1,000 books in my library. I have read most of them. It used to bother me that there were books on my shelf that I had not read. I'm more flexible now.
- My first computer was a Texas Instruments 99/4a. The BASIC programs I wrote had to be saved on a Panasonic cassette recorder. There haven't been many days since 1982 that I have not used a computer. Addicted? Perhaps. Probably.
- I'm still waiting for the statute of limitations to expire (and my kids to reach 30 years of age) before I "tell it all." Just kidding. ;)
Well, there you go. Just a little bit of my background that might help explain a little about who I am. I collect experiences like some collect shells, antiques, or dust. And they make me rich.
...to be continued. Part 4 - The Bucket List.
*United States, Canada, Germany, Fance, Poland, Austria, Croatia, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Italy, Denmark, unisia, Hungary, Slovenia, Macedonia, United Kingdom, Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
** Machinist, firefighter/EMT, engineer, minister, consultant, trainer, and missionary.