Life Can Be Difficult
I think that almost all of us know that. 1 want to tell you, my friends, just a little bit about my experience that tells me life can be difficult.|
I was born clubfooted in both feet. Severely for the left foot, moderately for the right. At age 11 months I had my first operation to correct those problems. I was in and out of the Shriners Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, CA many times over the next 2 ½ years. I wore braces (a la Forrest Gump) until I was seven.
As a consequence of the various surgeries, the braces, and the months spent in casts from the waist down, my legs never grew the way they should have. I’m nearly six feet tall, and have a 27 inch in-seam. According to the doctors, had my legs grown as they should, my height-now would be more nearly 6’6” to 6’8”. In some ways I am very glad that I am not that tall, but I would not choose the methodology that achieved that end for any other child.
I was clumsy, and very accident prone, as a child. Many cuts requiring stitches, some broken bones, and one gunshot wound, before I ever reached puberty. I spent an inordinate amount of my childhood recovering from injuries.
At age 12, my left hand was twisted off in a washing machine (in spin cycle). I had to learn how to write all over again, having been left-handed my entire life. I was in the seventh grade in February of 1968, when I lost my hand. I spent 27 days in the hospital and another nine days at home. Finally, having missed a month of school, I returned to the grade school I attended. All of the seventh and eighth grade classes were concentrated in one hallway of the school. Eight classrooms and eight teachers. We moved from classroom to classroom through the course of the day depending upon the subject we were scheduled into at that time. The purpose of this was to prepare us for high school.
On the day that I returned to the seventh grade, as I was standing in the hallway before first period, talking with a group of my friends, my girlfriend, with whom I was “going steady” walked up to me with a brown paper bag in her hand. She handed the bag to me, turned, and walked away without saying a word. I opened the bag. In it was everything I had ever given to her, along with a note which simply said “I can no longer be your girlfriend”. No explanation, no reason, just a bald statement
Everyone in my life; family, friends and relatives, doctors in the hospital, nurses in the hospital, all of them had continually commented on how well I was dealing with the loss of my hand. How strong I was. I did not let anyone, not even my mother, see how much I hurt inside. I had already learned that pain doesn’t decrease by letting others see it. I knew from much experience that allowing others to see the pain would be taken as weakness. Weakness was never something I felt I could afford
You see, as a consequence of all of the problems I had in early life, at age 12 I was four foot nine and weighed less than 80 pounds. Just a few months before I lost my hand, at the beginning of the school year, they assembled all of the students in the school, nearly 1,000 children. We assembled on the playground outside the school building in ranks by height. I was in the first row even though I was in the seventh grade. The only child in the school shorter than myself was a first grade girl.
I was an angry, mean little shit, with a very bad attitude - at least according to the teachers and many of my fellow students. For myself, the attitude which I displayed was a necessity. A necessity, in order to cope with the fact that my peers were all much larger than I, and like children everywhere, picked on anyone different from the group. I was very different from the group.
Having lost my hand, my girlfriend, and most of my motivation, I entered into a period of depression which lasted for nearly three years. Prior to the loss of my hand, I had never received anything but an A on any academic subject on any report card ever sent home with me. I passed the second half of seventh grade as a courtesy of my teachers, not because of any effort of my own. I entered the eighth grade, did the absolute bare bones minimum, which would get me a C or D and pass the courses. It did not require any effort, as the eighth-grade really does not introduce anything truly knew, in the grade school curriculum. Possibly some maths, but that is basically the extent of it. Without doing a single bit of homework, without opening a textbook, without reading any of the required books, without doing anything other than simply sitting at my desk listening to the teacher, it was quite possible to get C’s and D’s. That’s all I did.
Freshman year in high school was much the same, so was sophomore year. Late in sophomore year I began to come out of the depression I had been suffering for so long, and look around me. I asked myself a simple question. Did I want to go to college? I decided that I did. I reviewed the requirements to obtain entry to the various colleges I had developed an interest in. It didn’t take long to realize that there was no way possible given the grades which I had obtained to that time to obtain entry even into community college.
I spent the summer between sophomore & junior years thinking intensely about what it would take to be able to get into a decent college given my academic record. At pre-registration for junior year I managed to persuade my guidance counselor that I could take 10 courses in an 8 period day, and pass them all. We struck a deal. If I could maintain a 4.0 average (perfect grades) for the first nine weeks then he would allow me to continue the second nine weeks with the same schedule. And so on. I ended my junior year with a 4.0 for the year. I am not bragging here, simply stating the facts, knowing full well that anyone sufficiently motivated could have done as well.
Having completed the necessary credits for graduation, I elected to attend community college for my senior year instead of high school. Many of the people who knew me in school thought I had dropped out. The only class I attended was an “early bird” class which met before regularly scheduled class hours. French IV. I only attended that class because the school district and the school board refused to allow me to graduate early and would only give me the necessary consent forms to attend community college if I showed up to have my little head counted for tax revenue purposes for at least one class each day.
So every morning I arrived at the school house at 730, attended French IV with the other six enrollees in that class. Ran to my car, drove like a madman to the community college 20 miles away to get to my first-class, which was at 9 AM. As a part of the agreement with the school board that allowed me to do this I had to maintain a 4.0 average that year as well. I did so.
I have said all of the foregoing for a very simple reason. I truly believe that if one can find within oneself the desire to achieve anything, that in it is within one’s grasp. It matters not how impossible it may seem. It matters not what others may say about the attempt. The only thing which matters is one’s own belief that the goal is worth the effort.
Regardless of the level of difficulty one encounters in life the primary impediment to achievement for almost all of humanity is their own failure to believe in themselves.
Do you believe in yourself?