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Cogitating about 2018
By Bob Robinson

When I was young and stupid I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought I wanted to be a bomber pilot like my dad, but I didn’t play with planes. Or bombs. When I was in junior high I spent my time publishing a monthly community newspaper that I charged a penny an issue for. It even included miniature photos that I pasted in place to go with the stories. I only did it for a few months… ten cents a month didn’t go very far, even in the late fifties.

When I went to college – Texas A&M… Go Aggies! – I was still thinking bomber pilot (specifically B-52s) because I knew journalism didn’t pay jack. A messed up foot blew that idea… I couldn’t pass the physical. My first major of choice was Aeronautical Engineering. I flunked a few courses, but I was stubborn. I went to Aerospace Engineering, flunked a few more courses, plus my physical. Not to be daunted – did I say I was young and stupid? – I went to Nuclear Engineering. I almost flunked out.

What to do? I didn’t have a clue; I only knew I had to make another change. And fast. I tried Psychology. I thought most of my instructors were crazier than the poor souls they were supposed to be teaching me to help. At least I got my grades up, so I was able to choose another major. This time, English. Bored to tears… couldn’t stand Shakespeare or most of the other icons of American and English literature. Mark Twain excepted. Tried Sociology, the Theatre, Radio & Television… got in a ton of minors but still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I even tried Education for a semester. Did I want to spend the rest of my life in a classroom trying to educate kids as young and stupid as me? Not on your life! Teachers are saints, but I’m not one of them. Besides, I knew that didn’t pay jack, either.

I finally gave in. I resigned myself to living on the edge of poverty and switched to Journalism. I was in my element. I got my Bachelor of Arts degree (it only took me six and a half years), then spent the next 50 years “communicating” and continuing my education in the “school of life.”

My first job was a cub reporter (like Jimmy Olson) for the local daily, The Bryan Eagle. I quickly got tired of the poverty aspect (especially since I was married with three kids by then), and went to producer-director for the local television station. It was kind of fun and paid more. Got bored with that after a year or so, then took a public information specialist position for the Agricultural Experiment Station. That paid even more. A couple years later I was touting the glories of real estate for the Texas Real Estate Research Center. Yeah… paid a little more, but… boring!!

I still hadn’t figured out my real purpose in life. So I went back to journalism as a reporter, editor and Public Relations specialist in California. I was about 35 or so when I finally figured out who I was and what I wanted to be when I grew up… anything but a Californian. I learned “black and white” there; their white was my black and vise versa.

It took me a few years (well… 25 to be exact) but I added considerable reporting and graphics experience and finally managed to get out of the land of “fuzzy math,” “ebonics” and “I’m okay you’re okay.” We had survived forest fires, earthquakes, 100 mph Santa Anas, mud slides and multiple brown-outs… the latest one occurring on the day we hit the “parking lot” of I-5 heading south to San Diego, then east into Arizona and beyond.

Greenville, Ohio, provided the pinnacle of my success as a journalist, Managing Editor of The Daily Advocate at the ripe old age of 55. I brought with me the “black and white” approach to fiscal and social issues. Still had them when I retired seven years later. Then something happened.

I started to see gray. The process had already started when I came out of retirement for a couple enjoyable years at The Early Bird. When I finally retired from journalism – for good – I discovered I no longer had a black and white view of life. It was too complicated.

And how did I come to that realization? Kids.

I’d been teaching as an adjunct at Edison since I’d arrived in town and, upon my final retirement, went full time as an Edison adjunct, then added tutoring and substituting for Greenville schools. It was the kids (from kindergarten to the older kids looking for career changes) who taught me the meaning of gray.

Life is a struggle for so many… maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is. I’ve been having some pretty good conversations with Rob, my youngest in Montana. We both have had our challenges; we both look upon survival into the 21st Century as a gift. And we both understand the importance of using that gift to the best of our abilities. His road is much more stable than mine was at his age; I’m proud of him.

My road? I’ve been “cogitating” about that a lot. The back-and-forth with Rob helped me to begin thinking about it; to try to put into words what I’ve been doing these last few years… trying to help kids understand that they are special, that despite the roadblocks, they have the power to control their destinies. They are in charge. Heritage – in the final analysis – is irrelevant. They need only to get the tools… education, faith in themselves and a desire to succeed.

I’ve watched too many kids struggle; some with unimaginable burdens. If I can help even one avoid the mistakes I made at that age, I’ll feel I’ve accomplished something. Maybe even something worthwhile. That is my goal for 2018.

Are you cogitating about your goal(s) for 2018? Think about it.

Wishing all of you a happy, successful – and meaningful – New Year.

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