For most of my life, I just wanted to get on with it: grow up, get an education, complete military service, get through a career of some sort and assemble the substitutes for a family I did not have. This was all done to distance myself from an unpromising and uncommonly lonely childhood.
My earliest memories are of a Philadelphia orphanage and then I was in foster care until I turned 18. Just before I started school, I was farmed out to an elderly childless couple who already had almost twenty years experience as foster parents; I was lucky because they were motivated by a love for children but not unmindful of the supplemental income. They let me stay on with them for two years after I aged out of the system but not for free; they couldn’t afford that.
I eventually took the surname of my foster parents as much to honor them for their goodness and decency as to distance myself from a birth family that never visited, never looked for me. It was only a couple of years ago that I tracked down my nearest living blood relatives, some distant cousins I did not know I had. After a brief flurry of mutual interest, we’ve resumed our estrangement.
Living independently, I “worked my way through college” as the phrase went and the possibilities then presented; I probably couldn’t do it now without assuming crippling debt. I never in my life ate so well or dressed so warm until I went into the Army. Despite a graduate degree, the Army was my best education.
I had a modest civilian career and retired just as soon as I was eligible. I could have had a second career but when I parsed the numbers I didn’t have to so I didn’t. Still, I keep busy. “I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea” is the first line of the first poem I thought to memorize as a 13 year-old, so, above all, I still keep a substantial portion of my time reserved for quiet and solitude.
So, as a result, this I believe: Life is ruled by chance and then it becomes opinion; justice is rare in human affairs but absent altogether in nature; God exists but religion and clergy are superfluous; there’s nothing special about this time in history; nothing favored about this speck in the universe; nothing preferred about a species that can contemplate time, space or itself; there’s nothing special about me. In the world, common sense and a good heart trump degrees and certifications any time but expect to be treated commensurate with the salary you command.