Tag Archives: Life

40 Years Ago…

…I was finishing up my junior year at Agoura High School. Last Thursday, I spent nearly 3 hours in a classroom composing (frantically scribbling would be a more accurate description) 18 and 1/2 pages in a Green Book for my Shakespeare final at the University of California, Berkeley. Thus ends my junior year at Cal…

In the immortal words of David Byrne: “How did I get here?”

40 years ago I was a Fire Department Explorer with the LA County Fire Department. I was planning on taking an EMT Course at LA Pierce College the following year that I might increase my chances of finding employment as a firefighter. I did. For 16 years I was a Firefighter and eventually Fire Captain after previously serving 5 years as a first-responder Paramedic in Ventura County. I found my niche. Dream fulfilled. I had set a goal and attained it. Game over.

40 years ago I thought this was how it’s done. Plan meticulously, account for all variables, work hard: goal attained/life made. In the ensuing 40 years I found out, sometimes quite painfully, that isn’t how life works. At least not my life.

40 years ago, if someone had time traveled and told me what the reality of my life would be 40 years later, in all honesty I probably would have ended my own life. If that entity would have informed me that my life will be traveling down the path it eventually took, I can guarantee that I would not have had the courage to take another step.

40 years ago, I could not, in a million lifetimes, expected my life to turn out the way it did.

40 years ago, I would never have expected to be writing this. 40 years later.

40 years ago, armed with supernatural foresight, I would never have chosen to take another step. That would have been a tragic mistake.

40 years ago I was about to embark on a life beyond my wildest nightmares and expectations. I sit here today and as sure as my pulse bounds, I can say without reservation that EVERY SINGLE tragedy and trial in my life was crucial to making me the man I am today. If that same time traveler offered me the opportunity to change my destiny–knowing what I know now–I wouldn’t change a thing.

40 years ago I embarked on a journey called my life. In my wildest dreams I couldn’t fathom what it would entail (despite my meticulous planning). I consider myself to be blessed beyond measure by whatever entity/spirit that guides our universe. I am wonderfully imperfect and struggle on a daily basis, but I can stop and be eternally grateful for what I have.

And 40 years later, that’s what I am: grateful.

 

 

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How 2 Wheels Changed Everything…

BikeDad

Dec. 21, 2007 is my sobriety date. I haven’t found the need to ingest any alcohol or other mind altering chemicals since that date. I’d love to claim that this occurred because of a personal epiphany or that I was suddenly struck with an urge to get healthy, but that would not be the truth. The truth was, as I was sitting handcuffed in the back of a CHP car, I decided to change my life…enough was enough. I had somehow contracted the disease of alcoholism (funny how that happens…I thought everybody blacked out and drank as much and as long as I did), and as a result of my actions while drinking…I had picked up my second DUI the night I was fortunate enough to be in that CHP car (as opposed to the Coroners van).

The State of California decided I needed to be without a driver’s license for 365 days. Damn. That was inconvenient. I had a life then. How the hell am I going to get to work, pick up my kids…do life?

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The answer took the form of 2 wheels. For the next year, I did life on 2 wheels. Entertaining my kids, work, grocery shopping…life was done on 2 wheels.

In a million years, if you would have told me I’d be a cyclist now, at age 55…I would have genuinely laughed. And I did at the spandex laden freaks I saw on the side of the road. Until I became one…

As I spent that year on 2 wheels, something clicked inside me. Every single time I set forth…those first few pedal strokes invoked a sense of freedom and youth in me I hadn’t felt since I was a kid on my Schwinn. And that feeling remains today.

Last year, I rode over 3500 miles. On the bike pictured above, I’ve ridden 12,602 miles. And I’ve become a cycling addict. Every climb calls to me like another challenge awakened…every long ride instills in me a sense of accomplishment and…well…life.

I’ve lost 30 lbs cycling and for the first time in my life, all my lab work at my annual physical was normal…hypertension: gone…high blood sugar: gone…routine labs: normal.

So it was with this justification that I decided to spend some money on my health and my future. I bought a “real” road bike. A carbon fiber dream that I’d been coveting for a few years.

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I haven’t even taken it out on the road yet. It just didn’t seem right until I eulogized my 2007 Gary Fisher Mendota…

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The two wheels that got me to the market, got me to work, to my meetings, to my kids…the two wheels that helped keep me sober and helped me quit smoking–the two wheels that profoundly changed my life and my health. I didn’t see it coming. Sometimes the best things in life work that way.

I hate to part with you my friend. And although you’ll be my campus bike when I get into UCLA in 2017…you’ll no longer be my daily rider. My daily meditation. My daily savior on two wheels…

 

 


A Brief Detour to the Other Side of my Brain…

 

So the dearth of posts here recently can be explained by something other than my general lethargy or reticence to engage.

For the last year-and-a-half, my academic career (community college) has taken me from one side of my brain to the other.

I originally re-enrolled at the community college that I took my first class in 1979. Yes kids, you heard that right…1979. It was an Emergency Medical Technician class I took as a senior in high school. That class led to a 26 year career as a first responder (EMT, Paramedic, Fire Captain).

When life intervened in 1999 and my world turned upside down as the result of my step-son’s car accident…all the best laid plans I had flew out the door before I realized they were missing. Without rehashing the last two decades (artfully hidden elsewhere in this blog), in the spring of 2013 I decided that a degree in Addiction Studies would afford me a stable career in a field I believed deeply in.

Well, two things happened: when I began my coursework, I also found a job in the field and was quickly disillusioned at the profit-making nature of the business; but more importantly, while taking my basic coursework for the AS, I found a passion for learning again. Not to say that as I younger student that I craved knowledge (far from it), but I found that as an adult with some life experience under my belt, that what I was learning about politics, world history, literature, and mathematics simply enthralled me.

Yet again, I steered a course change and decided to obtain a BA in English at UCLA (other fantasy universities include Berkeley and Georgetown).

Based upon by GPA, I was accepted into my colleges Honors Transfer Program for UCLA, and for the past three semesters I’ve been slogging through Math and Spanish courses. I dreaded Math and looked forward to Spanish. Both expectations were misguided.

It turns out that in order to attain fluency in a language, immersion and more than three semesters of the language is required. So after 3 semesters I can read and conjugate verbs like a boss but am panic stricken if I actually have to form real sentences in my head. Still, I managed to get A’s all three semesters.

Math was the surprise. I have always suffered from profound math anxiety, and frankly was dreading these classes. What I found was a real “duh” moment. If you put in the work, study, ask questions, seek outside help, that math is actually pretty stimulating. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments in Logarithms where I was sure the nuclear anxiety would take me out, but I persisted on and moved onto Honors Statistics last semester; another class that 4 years ago I would never have even had the courage to attempt.  I’ve received A’s in all 3 math classes the last 3 semesters. No one is more shocked than me…

So here I am…finished with the core work to get into university and back to my true love…general knowledge. This semester is going to be very challenging as I have three Honors classes: Physical Anthropology, Cinema, and English (persuasive writing). It also means a boat-load of research papers and familiarity with MLA/APA that I haven’t used in the last year-and-a-half.

So, of course the panic has set in…but it’s a panic that has enabled me to maintain (fingers desperately crossed) a 4.0 GPA during my time here. I didn’t set out to do this by any means; it has simply been a by-product of my thirst for knowledge and has now become self-perpetuating.

Three more semesters to go and I’m hoping to report my entrance into UCLA (or CAL or Georgetown or, as my life seems to arc, somewhere else I haven’t planned) as a junior.

Until then, my brain has shifted back to the other side, the non-math/language side and I’m hoping to crank out some more Conversations with the Moon…

 


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