I believe that, unless you sit in front of a keyboard with a blinking cursor staring at you, you’ll never really know what you believe. I came to this realization after months of thinking about, but never writing down, my beliefs. Now that I am sitting in front of the keyboard, and that never-ceasing, heartbeat of a vertical line is staring back at me, I realize that my beliefs, and thus my life decisions, have been centered on tidbits of clichéd wisdom.
As a high school sophomore, I realized that I had a knack for mechanical “things.” A few years later, when registering for college, I was asked to choose between engineering and engineering technology. The course counselor said that engineering technology was the “easier of the two; less math and the higher level courses weren’t calculus-based.” I, distinctly remember thinking to myself, “no pain, no gain”, and chose engineering instead of engineering technology.
During college, in the mid-80’s, I was curious about the Air Force and enrolled in the 100-level ROTC course. After a semester or two, I was faced with the decision to commit 4 years of my life to the Air Force. “Your signature on that line, son”, the detachment commander said, “guarantees you 4 years of solid employment after you graduate from college.” During that time, I had the perception that there was a glut of young, unemployed engineers and the ingrained wisdom that, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” So, I signed on the line.
I can think of literally hundreds of mini-decisions or actions that I’ve made over the last twenty years that were guided by, “better safe than sorry.” From simple ones like packing first aid and tornado kits to arcane ones like checking the tire pressure of my spare tire.
As long as I can remember, I’ve gone to bed early and woken up before the crack of dawn. This pattern is understandably driven by the ingrained wisdom that, “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
To some, this odd belief system, based on a clichés, may seem a bit shallow. In fact, I too think it shallow, especially in light of other “This I Believe” essays (aside from the recent Barbie one). Nonetheless, these nuggets of wisdom have guided just about every decision or activity that I’ve undertaken.
My 14 year old daughter gave her input to my belief system by sarcastically mis-quoting the great philosopher Forrest Gump and stating, “boring is as boring does.” That’s O.K. with me though because in 30 years she’ll probably be writing a “This I believe” essay and it will likely contain many of the same thoughts.
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