So what is your goal in life? I’ve often said that my goal is to live long enough to become a character. A character is one of those people who seems to stand out as an individual, often in some unusual or unique ways. Characters are often a tad eccentric; they march to the beat of a different drum; they have their own perspectives on how and why the world works as it does.
I have known some characters in my life, and my guess is that you have too. If you stop to think about it for even a few moments, then the characters will appear.
Some of them come from our families. My grandfather Cecil was a character. He lived to be one day shy of his 95th birthday. He graduated from Oklahoma City Barber College in 1921. He rode the rails at times during the depression. He said that hair grew even when times were hard. I asked him once what he thought was the secret to his long life; he looked at me calmly and said, ‘Two things—I keep regular habits, and I breathe deeply.’ That was it. Yes, he was a man of regular habits. He was also generous to a fault; he would try to give away a $100 to a stranger at the store when his Social Security checks came in because he was sure that he had to keep it all moving along or the flow would somehow stop. He was a character in the finest sense of that word.
Some characters may be what is also known as ‘local color.’ These are folks who are particular to a certain town or city, and they may also be peculiar. We had one growing up in the little town in the mountains where I was raised. He walked everywhere and never drove to the best of my knowledge. He always marched in parades in uniform, although we are not sure if he ever actually served; he would march waving a stick that was covered with streamers and buttons—definitely not military-issue. Some said that he was a victim of shell-shock from WWII; others said he was ‘tetched.’ Whatever the backstory, once you met him you would not forget him. Even if he never intended to do so, he offered some comic relief in our little burg.
Characters may reveal themselves to be heroic figures in the midst of everyday trials and tribulations. There are those among us who are struggling and suffering along silently with burdens that we cannot imagine. Their inner strength and conviction and resolve are not on public display except in rare moments. When it finally comes to light we are inspired by their examples.
Some characters are made so by their own choices in life. They choose the unexpected path, the flight of fancy, the dream of daring that others would avoid. They do not ‘play it safe’ and thereby they end up in dangerous places where their character is formed in unique ways. Like a tree that has stood atop the mountain and weathered many a storm that left it somewhat broken, perhaps deformed, missing some limbs that would have given it more balance and beauty, these folks are shaped by forces that have left a mark.
I think I originally said that my goal was to be a character because I had heard so many folk talk about being this or being that or reaching some level of income and or retiring safely with enough money to keep them comfortable until they exit this existence. It was, at least, something different, something that made people wonder what was going on within me, something that made some people laugh. I have not put it down on a resume yet, but that may still happen. Who knows?
I am a unique mixture of the people I have known, the experiences I have had, the education I have received, the places I have traveled, the books I have read, the genes I have inherited, and everything else along the way. I have learned a few things. I have seen some things. I have some stories that are worth passing along. I have some insights that might prove useful to others. So what you find here might touch on a number of things.
But I am still a character in the making. I do not assert that I have reached my goal yet. There are still events and education and employment and enjoyment that will all shape who I am still becoming. My hope is that sharing this journey will help you, gentle reader, as you make your own way in this world.