“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” (George Bernard Shaw)
Because choices have consequences and we all know that—deep down where truth cannot be denied.
Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.
My life has been long, rich, rewarding, challenging, interesting, and punctuated by momentous choices from which, singly and in concert, has cascaded consequences for which I am responsible.
In 1963 I chose to participate in a six week Summer Science Training Program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. That led to enrolling there, jobs, degrees, more jobs, more degrees, and a whole lot of experiences that contributed to who I am, today.
In 1964 I chose to ask a classmate to marry me. That led to marriage, children, and grandchildren.
In 1968 I chose to enlist in the Army and almost immediately give up my guaranteed enlistment as a Chemical Staff Specialist to become an Infantry Officer, a Green Beret, and a Vietnam Veteran.
In 1971 I chose to take an early out from the Army and return to UW.
In 1979 I chose to return to school to get certified to teach secondary science.
In 1980 I chose to take a job teaching in Beaver Dam, relocate, and remarry.
In 1988 I chose to go back to school, again, to learn how to be a better teacher.
In 2000 I chose to finish my high school teaching career and retire in 2001.
In 2001 I chose to finish my dissertation and earned my PhD in 2002.
In 2005 I chose to relocate in Yuma for winters to be nearer grandchildren in San Diego.
In 2008 I chose to build a house in Yuma and become an Arizona Resident.
In 2012 I chose to read the help wanted ads in The Yuma Sun, then apply for and accept a job at NAU-Yuma as an Assistant Clinical Professor.
Choices have consequences. Each choice we make opens some doors and closes others. I don’t know about you, but I have never been clever or wise enough to foresee those consequences with any clarity.
And for every choice I made in freedom, I bore the responsibility for the consequences.
Oh, sure, there are always limitations to liberty (Selective Service comes to mind) but I still had many personal liberties of choice within those constraints.
Our options of choice rise in crescendo and then begin to fade like the years of our lives slipping past. I can never be an airline pilot. That ship sailed forty-some years ago when I chose to not complete my application for flight school. But, who knows? That might have meant getting shot down and killed in Vietnam.
I can never be a police officer, a medical doctor, or President of the United States. I can only be the me that is the result of my choices. All I have to give to the world is the me I am becoming. That is charity.
I believe all these choices came from one very deep personal intention of my adolescence. To this day I do not know if I decided or simply admitted that what I wanted to do with my life was to understand the universe. I do know that the paths I have chosen have taught me more than that high school boy could have imagined.
This is why I write—to find out what I am thinking. This is why I teach, because nothing teaches me as much as trying to figure out what to teach others and to hear what others are thinking. This is why I feel blessed, because I have followed a passion of my youth, with a few missteps and dead ends, to a place of greater understanding, and that gives me liberty to share my experiences with others in ways which might help them choose in harmony with their passions.
Deep down inside you, what is a passion of your youth?