I recall my parents telling me “You can be anything in this world you want.” I knew when they said it that they were sincere, but I also sensed that there were unspoken boundaries.
Like many boys who grew up in the 1960s, I watched the space race with awe and fascination and hoped that I would some day become an astronaut. When Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon I felt it was my destiny to explore the cosmos and see things no other human had seen. I knew that science and mathematics were important fundamental skills for astronauts, so I developed those skills within myself.
As the space race cooled, the prospect of becoming an astronaut slowly and quietly lost its ability to impel me forward. I retained my interest in science and math, but found that it had become unfocused. It was about this time that the electronics industry ignited its own rocket with the increasing importance of the transistor and the increasing density of integrated circuitry. I spent hours reading electronics parts catalogs and trying to think of new ways to combine the parts into new and more useful products.
When I graduated high school I signed on for an EE degree. One of my elective courses introduced me to computer programming, I found I had a very strong aptitude for it. I decided to explore beyond the one elective, and took the most difficult programming course available. When I aced that class it seemed clear to me that I had found my calling, so I shifted my major to Computer Science and began to define myself as a computer programmer.
At the age of 21 I attended a seminar that taught me I was responsible for every aspect of my life, whether I liked the aspects or not. This was a difficult lesson to learn, and one that seemed counter-intuitive at times. It is easier to blame circumstances than it is to accept responsibility, especially when you aren’t pleased with the outcome. But I found that by accepting responsibility I gained the power to change my life, if in no other way than in my ability to change how I allow the circumstances of life to affect me.
Over the course of my career I have taken a number of turns and with each have redefined my goals and ambitions. At the age of 36 I made another radical change when I traded in my bachelor life for the life of a married man. Each of these changes was the result of choices I made and consequences that I accepted, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Through all this there remained within me the little boy who wanted to explore the cosmos hearing his parents say “You can be whatever you want to be.” As I look back now I honestly believe that life is a process of constantly asking the question “What do you want to be” and making the choices that answer that question.
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