Have you experienced an event in life you knew altered the outcome of the rest of your days? Does this epiphany remain on the horizon? The determining episode can be positive or negative. The recognition can transpire instantly or with retrospect. Identification and reflection are essential to assist with future navigation through life’s maze.
I had two events in my teens of the positive flavor. One required the passage of time to fully appreciate the impact and the latter was instant. During the adolescence of my maturation Dad and I bought, sold and restored Model A Fords. We were members of the Model A Restorers Club (MARC). Annually MARC hosted a national meet. In 1976 the chosen city was Anaheim California. In our local club was a member named R.T. McDaniel. Mr. McDaniel was a self made millionaire that appreciated the work ethic I possessed at fifteen.
R.T. was planning to drive a 1931 Model A Roadster Pickup cross country to the national meet with his best friend. Fate would see the friend fall ill a week prior to departure. Unbelievably my name was called from the bench to get in the game. I couldn’t believe he wanted me to go with him and share the driving. I started walking a little taller. The trip was an incredible adventure for a boy that had not traveled west of Louisiana. So much wonderment and anticipation filled my thoughts as we embarked on a humid late June morning. My goals for the trip out was to see a Texas cowboy and couldn’t wait to see California girls. Crossing the Texas state line my neck was in constant motion to spy John Wayne. Just out of Brownsville I spot a horse with a rider. As the distance closed all the imagined garb was coming into focus. As we passed my jaw bounced off the runningboard. My highly anticipated cowboy was African American, a possibility that had never entertained in my young naïve mind. The initiation of my enlightenment.
Anaheim finally appeared on road signs. Just outside the city limits the interstate was being restriped and we crossed wet paint. First stop a carwash to remove the splattered paint from the undercarriage. I stretched my lanky long legs before earning my keep and there she was, the California blonde goddess I had conjured for 2213.7 miles. Mr. McDaniel put his hand on my shoulder and suggested I close at least one eye because she was filling out a crocheted bikini that had much more reveal than crochet.
We celebrated the bicentennial at Knotts Berry Farm with the first girl I ever kissed. Now Donna Strickland will dispute this fact, but you would surely think I would remember such an occurrence? I was treated as a peer by Mr. McDaniel the entire trip so it really wasn’t a surprise when he asked me to drive the 1966 Ford Mustang GT he purchased back to Georgia. He didn’t say ask your parents so I did not give themthe opportunity to object.
Over the two thousand miles I talked my way out of a ticket in Arizona, fortunately the officer wanted to discuss Jimmy Carter’s presidential bid instead of concentrating on my date of birth, avoided a head on collision when a driver crossed the median in Louisiana and I realized a boy left his parents three weeks prior and a man was returning. Looking back I know the confidence Mr. McDaniel had in me and the responsibility placed upon my shoulders morphed into the belief I can accomplish anything I decide to do. Thank you my friend!
The winter quarter of my senior year in high school I met with the guidance counselor to make sure everything was in order for graduation. She inquired what were my plans. I replied I’m going to Georgia. She crisply responded David you’re not university material. She was correct, school rarely could compete with my day dreams. It was however the first time I felt challenged. Growing out of that engagement of wills became my best motivational tools. Tell me I am not capable or it’s impossible and consider it done. Oh yeah, I crammed four years into five and graduated from Georgia.
Wrapping up here, there are individuals that know horrific life altering experiences. Often that leads to years of poor decisions and low or no self-esteem. These defining episodes too can be a springboard to realizing potential. It is a decision you possess the power to make. Thank you very much for reading. Have a great weekend! dj