I have been working (read “struggling”) on my memoirs/autobiography for longer than I care to think about. I’ve managed to write close to 90,000 words and am sure I need to write another 90,000 (at least) in order to feel I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. Some of what I’m including comes from blog posts I’ve authored over the past decade and a half. Now I’ve decided to take a slightly different tack and publish some of my work here in my blog, in the hope I can get some feedback—at least from my friends who sometimes read what I write here. What follows is the first draft of my Preface to what I’m tentatively entitling “A Stunning Display of Intelligence”, the meaning of which is contained therein. If you read this, and have a mind to, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts, suggestions, etc. Thank you.
I’ve not been one to toot my own horn, preferring to let my actions speak for themselves. This is, in part, because I suffer from impostor syndrome, or something similar to it. My particular iteration of this syndrome isn’t a cause of great anxiety. It’s more like I’ve always felt everyone knew everything I did and what I knew or was capable of wasn’t all that special. It’s only in the last decade I’ve come to understand how this affected me and began to throw off whatever constraints it placed on my progress and enjoyment of life.
It was the blog of an online friend, someone I have never met in person but, because of our mutual interest in the advent of what was called Web 2.0, as well as social media and its application to the enterprise, that brought me my first glimmer of a deeper understanding. He named his blog “The Obvious” and, when I asked him why that was so he told me it was because his impostor syndrome led him to believe the things he wrote about were “obvious” to others; hence the name.
This work of mine is my way of not necessarily showing off, or displaying my accomplishments, but of sharing my experiences, many of which for numerous reasons I have been reluctant to talk about at all with nearly anyone save for those who were with me when they happened and who helped me plan or plot to accomplish. Some of the things I’ve done, especially when I was young and impetuous, not to mention bullet-proof and invincible, were illegal. My virtue is never having been caught, not necessarily being a good citizen. Although, in my defense I will argue much of those activities might have been illegal, but they were hardly wrong. Enjoying the pleasures of Cannabis is one of them. I will discuss this in greater detail a bit later.
My life, while reasonably normal, has not been all that conventional. By that I mean I’ve done most of the things normal people do, I just haven’t done them in the same order others normally have. I have long suggested I’ve lived a great deal of my life in reverse and I believe I am accurately depicting how I’ve done it. For instance, although I did not attend undergraduate school, I was admitted to law school eight years after I graduated high school, graduating with a Juris Doctorate three years later. Many years after that experience (33 to be exact) I earned a Master’s Degree in Knowledge Management. It was shorty after my 62nd birthday. I have considered getting a Bachelor’s Degree just to complete the backward educational hat trick, but at this stage of my life it’s unlikely. I did some undergrad work at the University of Phoenix and Cal Lutheran when I was working on the Space Shuttle Maine Engine (SSME) program at Rocketdyne. I think I finished a semester at the University of Phoenix and a year or more of work in an adult evening degree program at Cal Lu, but it was difficult to reconcile taking classes designed primarily for 18 – 22 year olds still wet behind the ears. The knowledge I could have taught some of those classes was a bit aggravating too. I will discuss these efforts a little later.
I didn’t become a father until I was 55 years old, when my wife and I, after trying to get pregnant, traveled to the People’s Republic of China to adopt our oldest child. It was a two-year, difficult, and amazing adventure. A few years later, in what I’ve often thought of sarcastically as a stunning display of intelligence, we adopted another child from China. Hence the title of this memoir. Later on I will introduce you to my girls, Fooshie and Typhoon Girl.
A word of caution. As I am writing down my recollections I am also researching dates and locations to ensure my memories are as accurate as one can expect from a seventy-five year old man. I have never been one to exaggerate my experiences, but I know that time can play tricks on one’s memory. I am making every attempt to be accurate, but I realize a few of these memories may be slightly distorted. For instance, I know I was five years old when I had surgery to correct my clubbed left foot, but I’m pretty certain (based on my research of when he played for the Los Angeles Angels) I was five years old when I picked up a foul ball during batting practice and, at his request, returned it to Chuck Connors. I’m not sure I can reconcile being mobile enough to get that ball with having some fairly major surgery done to my foot and ankle. Nevertheless, I have managed to slog through what remains of my mind and am presenting what I remember as best I can.
It is also nigh on to impossible to refer to many of the organizations I worked for or the places I visited and which meant something to me and my development or experience back then, because some of these memories are from a long time ago. As an example, one of the companies I worked for and which played a bit of a role in making my visit to Cuba somewhat strange was purchased long ago and, in fact, was re-branded sometime after that purchase-and that was a long time ago.
A substantial portion of this memoir was written over the past 10 – 15 years and posted on one of the two blogs I’ve maintained since early 2006, when I published my first post at The Cranky Curmudgeon (http://crankycur.blogspot.com/). I posted there for a few years until 2014. I did not publish very often the last few years because I had started another blog with WordPress, which I call Systems Savvy (https://rickladd.com/). My first publication there was at the beginning of 2008. I have since published there sporadically and continue to do so; currently a bit over 700 times, not including saved drafts. Some of those posts were simple, short, and sweet while others were somewhat lengthy and more complex and nuanced. Several of them recount experiences of mine, while other reflect on lessons I believe I’ve learned from work or life.
Long ago I came to the conclusion the only thing that mattered for me, in terms of what I accomplish in my life, was that I gained wisdom. When I first began to feel that way I was only in my thirties and I knew that you can’t just hang out a shingle and declare oneself a wise person. I also knew that wisdom comes with time and experience; some would say after a great deal of false starts and failures too. Whether or not I’ve reached that particular plateau will be for others to decide and I am hopeful you will find a nugget or two buried in my remembrances, especially those that are from the more seminal experiences of my now fairly long life.
I’ve struggled to find my voice for, well, pretty much forever and I’m not sure I’ve managed to do a good job with this memoir.
However, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to believe I can at times sense the hot breath of the grim reaper on my neck and I feel a strong need to get this done before it’s too late. As well, I want to leave some coherent (ha!) record of who—and why—I am for my daughters. They lost two fathers before they were old enough to understand what was happening to them and I want them to have something to hang on to after I’m gone. I am, for the most part, the only father they can remember.
For years I considered writing memoirs about certain parts of my life and experience; mostly my political and counter-culture activities and my becoming a first-time adoptive father so late in life. However, various circumstances militated against my doing so, not the least of which was my inability to just sit down and write, as well as organize my thoughts and memories. In this work I have decided to go through my life and get as much of it down as possible. As I began outlining and organizing my thoughts I found it increasingly easier to link various parts, the sum of which can be confusing when taken all at once.
I have therefore attempted to organize my thoughts in such a way the reader can get a sense of what I have learned from a particular part of my life without having to understand the entirety of it, the gestalt if you will. I think you will find it easy to skip over portions that aren’t terribly interesting to you and still get something of value. At least I hope that is the case. I know my life has been unconventional. Not all of it, but substantial chunks of time and experience. I’ve tried to convey what I’ve learned from those periods, as well as the more normal everyday experiences we all seem to go through. I hope you’ll find it of interest, if not enlightening.