Friday, May 20, 2011

When did that happen?

I played golf last week.  First round I've played in Richmond, after living here almost two years.  Rotary Club tournament.  Captain's choice format.  We finished four under par.  Had a great time.

Why blog about it?  I'm not.  I'm blogging about a revelation that occurred on the course.  I had a decision to make about something.  I can't even remember what that something was.  I just remember suddenly being aware of the decision process.  Again, the decision is unimportant.  The process is everything.  The revelation came in suddenly recognizing the process.  In recognizing that it governs an awful lot of the decisions I make.  Too many perhaps.

The beauty is that from this point forward, having recognized the process, I can harness it.  The most interesting thing is that I didn't recognize it earlier.

The revelation came like this.  Facing a decision, two options seemed eligible.  I leaned toward one.  I wondered why.  In realizing why, I foregrounded an aspect of such choices that has long been there, but fairly automatic.  Awareness makes it conscious.  The aspect?  Which of the two choices would most people not make?

Not that I seek to shock. I don't really.  I simply seek to be anything but normal, average, run-of-the-mill, boring.  The difference on the course the other day?  Awareness.  I've been anything but boring for a long time.  It just happened.  I've been aware of it for a long time.  What I've not been aware of is how strong a role that need plays in most of my decision making.

All my life, I was the youngest this, the first that, the something some other thing.  On the backside of fifty now, whole new vistas of firsts open up in the opposite direction.  I expect I'll be the oldest this, the last that, and still something some other thing.  My point is that all of that just happened.  I didn't set out to be exceptional in those ways.  I just set out to do this or that thing that I wanted to do.  Then when barriers came in the form of, "Well you need to be this age to do this," or "You need this rank to fill this position," or "You need this experience for this post," I always managed to find the waiver authority for whatever rule was being invoked and to get the rule bent in my favor and then do a better job at whatever it was than anyone who fit the profile I was the exception to.

But choosing a path that makes you an exception and choosing a path because it will make you an exception are two different things.  It was the occasional entry of the latter into my decision making that I recognized on the golf course this week.  And recognizing it, I then wondered when it had become so strong a force.  When did the drive to be the exception become a motivating force in its own right?

For instance, I've been jumping out of planes for so long now, and love it so much, that I can no longer remember the exact motivation for taking that path.  But I'm sure now that part of that decision was that skydiving was something most people wouldn't do.  A HALO badge is something few soldiers and fewer airmen wear.  A liaison tour with the Marines or the Army is something most people are drafted into, reluctantly--I volunteered twice.  In 2007, I actively sought an assignment to Kabul as the Air Attache to Afghanistan, and would have won the assignment except that the embassy wouldn't re-open in time for me to complete the tour before my mandatory retirement.  (Don't think I didn't look for a way to bend that rule too.) 

In the end, I recognize that this decision process may not be the surest route to longevity.  But I can tell you this: my life is not, nor will it be, boring, or normal, or average.  For the most part, I detest those latter two words (unless they're being spoken by my doctor or, more specifically, my gastroenterologist, and occasionally, even then).

When I lived in Colorado, I used to gather with my classmates once a month for wine tasting.  Ostensibly.  Really, it was a monthly ritual in which we engaged simply to remind ourselves that, while aging was inevitable, maturity was largely optional.  Monday's revelation may mean that even the latter can't be escaped forever.

I'm not saying my decisions will necessarily change.  I may have a new awareness of the decision process that I lacked before, but faced with pancakes or crab cakes, I'd still choose crab cakes.

Blue Skies.  Doc