I’m the eldest of four siblings. When I was eight, my mother sent us to live with an aunt and uncle who had a ranch and three children of their own, all older than me. The situation was often difficult. My aunt and uncle were trying to “do the right thing” in taking on my siblings and me, but it wasn’t something that was done out of an abundance of joy. Resentment and anger often percolated to the surface, on all sides. Things were said and done that are regretted today.
I left the ranch when I was eighteen. I spent time in the military, began a career in government service, got married, and I’ve moved around a bit in the ensuing thirty-odd years. I’ve come to the conclusion that we probably don’t have a lot of control over what happens to us from the time we’re born ‘til age eighteen or so, but if we don’t take control over what happens to us after eighteen, it is we who lose out and we’ve no one to blame but ourselves. I came to this realization through many experiences, but I really began solidifying this belief while learning to fly light airplanes shortly after leaving the ranch. In learning to fly, I learned the importance of controlling those factors that are within the control of the pilot in command of an airplane. A pilot of a light aircraft makes the decisions affecting route, altitude, and fuel loads, among other things, that determine the success of the flight. I also learned to compensate for those factors, such as weather, that humans have no control over. I cannot control whether the cloud ceiling or visibility are too low today to make a particular flight, but I know that bad weather doesn’t last, and if I’m patient, the weather will improve to the point that the flight can be made. Flying, to me, requires a sense of pragmatism. The best aviators try to control those variables that are within their control, and minimize the impacts of the uncontrollable factors to the extent possible. I found that same sense of pragmatism was useful dealing with those inevitable setbacks we all face in our lives.
As a child I found others made decisions for me, sometimes with my best interests in mind, sometimes not. I was not in control of my own life, just as most children are not. It galled me that I didn’t have a say in those decisions that directly affected me. As I became an adult and learned to fly, I learned that not only could I take control of those decisions, but that it was imperative that I take control of the situation if I wanted a happy life.
We can’t change what happened to us as we were growing up, good or bad. But if we let the bad parts of the past consume us, too often we don’t get to partake of the fruits of our present and future.
I don’t deny being a bit resentful, even today, about certain things that were said and done in the past. But today, to the extent possible, I decide what happens to me. I feel that I have paid the price for a happy adulthood with the difficulties of my childhood. I will not be denied all the good things that happen for people who decide to take the control of their lives into their own hands.
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