I sit here today a bit over 64, being somewhat reflective (not!), thinking about what I wanted to share with you today. I have George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” slamming in my ears, but I know this post wasn’t going to be about music. In fairness I have been kicking the thought of my education and all the time I wasted in high school and even in the military schools I attended, and what could have been had I actually applied myself way back then. In part this post also came about because yesterday I sat with Cari at the kitchen table practicing her multiplication tables. Cari is in the 3rd grade and has not yet committed these to memory. We sat for over an hour practicing, we me giving her little lessons, and offering math truths as I knew them. And basically had a good time, I wouldn’t allow her to quit, and I wouldn’t allow her to just guess. I know the truths (about math) I shared with Cari were correct because my wife (the math whiz) didn’t correct me. It was enjoyable to just sit with her and help.
But this story is really about me, so let me get to it (btw Nickelback is pounding now). When I went to school (1st grade thru 12th) I would have been the poster child for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), but that term hadn’t been invented. If my grades had been a touch worst I might have gotten to ride the short bus (very non PC) to school. I was probably only a stupid smile or two away from being called retarted (extremely non-PC), but the simple truth is that school really didn’t keep my attention. It wasn’t interesting enough, it didn’t stimulate me in a way that made me want to excel. Throughout my entire education process, the classes I found interesting and stimulating I did extremely well. You could look at any given report card and find I got an F in “English” but I got an A in “Reading.” (3 Doors Down’s “Kryptonite” now blasting away) Another example would be that I got “C’s” in Math but “F’s” in Algebra. I had found out early in the educational process that I did not have to apply myself at all in order to get just barely passing grades, so I didn’t. And there was no penalty at home, sure I got yelled at, and I got “grounded” all the time. But it wasn’t enforced and I had a job outside of the house, so that kinda took the wind out of being grounded. Also, the folks didn’t know my hours or my schedule so it was easy to get around being grounded. I cruised thru the first 13 years (I did the 3rd grade twice) of school without putting in a lick of work. But again, the classes or components of classes I liked I did great. So as a result, I became an extremely lazy student. (Garth Brooks “Thunder Road” is now slamming) I only (studied) when it was absolutely necessary. The day before a paper was due, or the night before a big test, I was the poster child for cramming. Imagine that, a student with ADD trying to cram. LOL LOL. Sometimes it worked mostly it didn’t. But I did graduate high school, it took a summer school English class, and Mom begging, but I did graduate. In my HS class were approximately 283 kids, I was something like 265 in ranking. It is hard to imagine that many students who accomplished less in HS than me.
These bad habits continued into my Navy career but really stopped while I was in Radioman “A” school. My class at NTCC San Diego was the last class of radioman school to teach and require a level of skill in Morse code. I was lazy, and I was just getting by, all the other components of being a Radioman had my interest, and I did well in those aspects. But if I flunked out of Radioman “A” school I would end up on the deck crew as a boatswain mate, which equated to really really hard dirty work, that I knew I wanted to avoid. The minimum standards (in 1969) for graduating from Radioman “A” school in Morse code was to be able to receive 12 words per minute (wpm) and transmit (6 or 8 not sure which) wpm with no more than 5 errors, over a 5 minute period. On the last day of qualifying I could transmit 8 wpm, but I was still hung up on receiving the minimum 12. Test after test I failed. Each test was a different message using all characters on the keyboard. But the light came on, and the dots and dashes became songs and I qualified 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20 wpm in separate tests over a 2 hour period. I went from the slowest code reader to the 3rd quickest in the class, and graduated “A” school in fine shape. BTW I never in my Navy career actually copied a real Morse code message. I really didn’t have much of an issue with class room training the rest of my Navy days, and all things considered did quite well during my active duty time.
When I got out of the Navy, it was suggested that I might want to go to college. It seemed like a good idea, and an easy way to make some money. I did have the GI Bill working for me. So a few months after I got established in my job, I enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College. Because I had been out of HS so long I was required to take a college prep math and English classes. These where were a snap, and I pretty much aced both of them. Thus I started my college career. I started with the same attitude and study habits that I had 10 years before in High School. The 1st couple quarters were easy because I chose classes I wanted to take so I put the effort in. But the next quarter I took classes I was required to take and did very poorly. So poorly that the VA counselor called me to his office and said “Bill, if you don’t pick you grades up, you will have to pay the government back all the money you have received to date.” That equaled about $1,800 over 6 months, folks if you don’t have 2 nickels; $1,800 is a crap load. LMAO, folks I took a 1.69 GPA and converted it to a 3.27 over the next 3 years. I never had to pay a penny back, and I loved college. My favorite courses were those that required reading and comprehension, and simplistic math courses. I aced Accounting I, II, and III. The math was simple; it was just knowing and understanding the rules. Economics for whatever reason was another class I loved and did extremely well. The science classes gave me issues, and required every bit of effort I could muster to get thru. Business Law was another class I found to be easy because it was all about reading and understanding the rules. But my most favorite courses were the political science classes. It allowed me to be opinionated and I was graded pretty much on my ability to be opinionated LOL. How cool is that.
One of my favorite college stories involved an English Literature course. It was mid-term time and the test consisted of 10 questions. We used “blue books” to complete the test. The kicker was that each question started off “In your opinion” blab blab blab. The next week the test came back and I got a B+. I was so pissed. I stood up and questioned the professor how my “opinion” was only worth a B+, she was quite shaken that anyone would question her, and was even more put off when she couldn’t successfully tell me my opinion was only worth a B+, and I demanded an A instead of a B+ and suggested we take it up with the Dean of English at NVCC. The professor decided that maybe my opinion was indeed worth an A. As soon as she said she would change my mid-term to an “A” most of the class stood and made the same demand. And while she stared at me with daggers in her eyes she gave anyone that asked a better grade, (who answered all ten questions with something other than BS) based on their opinion she gave them the better grade.
But the professor won in the end. When finals came around, it was the single most difficult test I have ever taken, period. But, while it was difficult it was fair. Also the word opinion was not on the test in any form. LOL LOL. (“Boom Boom” by The Animals is playing now) I killed myself taking that test, and barely had it turned in on time. The next week I got the test results and I got a “B” for the test, I stared at the B and said quietly to myself “Thank You God! I ended up getting an “A” for the course, but it was the hardest “A” I ever got.
College was a wonderful experience, but my career started to take off and I made the decision to concentrate on being a Dad and my career. Two of the best decisions I ever made. I love being a Dad and granddad, and I had a great career.
I rarely do could’ve, would’ve or should’ves. It makes no sense to try and second guess myself all the time. I of am of the mind that if I changed one thing, that action then ripples thru the rest of my life, making slight or large changes in every aspect of my life from the time of the change forward, for the rest of my life. I have so much to be thankful for that, I don’t want risk any of it to change any one thing. But as successful as I have been, I can only wonder how much more successful I could have been had I applied myself way back then. (Melissa Etheridge’s “Refugee” is playing now and almost seems appropriate) I am not going to speculate, but, damn I don’t think there would have been a mountain I couldn’t have climbed. I hope this is a lesson Cari learns early, and takes to heart.
Thank you for indulging me as I took this trip in the wayback machine. Education is so very important, and it doesn’t have to be college, our world requires all manner of folks, with all manner of skills. Yes some of those skills are learned in college, but in this day and age, that is not the only place to get an education that you can build on, that you can support a family on, and reach all manner of success.
While writing this I have listened to at least 25 songs. Each song has provided some level of influence. The artist included: John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Garth Brooks, Brooks and Dunn, Seether, AC/DC, Five Finger Death Punch, Nickleback and Marilyn Manson to name just a few. It has been a very enjoyable afternoon. I hope you have enjoyed yours as well. Take care, if you have any comments, suggestions or thoughts you wanted to share, please do. Bill