The task of considering what one wants to do with his life is a heavy burden. As for me, I was able to rule out farming right out of the gate thus making it easier to proceed with considering other options as they cropped up (so to speak) in my tiny brain cavity. The major reasons for rejecting farming were, in no particular order, hoes, shovels, pitchforks, various garden crops such as butter beans, potatoes and peas, various money crops such as cotton and hay, and last but certainly not least, putting up with young calves and all their manure.

Today’s youth might not understand my reasoning mainly because most of them have not been on the business end of a hoe, have not been asked to pick a bushel of butterbeans nor dig up a wheel-barrow full of potatoes and they most likely haven’t even seen a hayfield with square bales nor been pooped on by a calf with a severe case of the scours. All of these things will make a sensible person reject the notion of farming as a living.

So, with agriculture out of the picture I could move on to other considerations for a vocation. When I was about 10 years old all of the following were given serious consideration: 

  1. Hut building for those unfortunate adults who had a house but no hut for holding club meetings and camping out.
  2. Rat catching and killing, a form of pest control in which one used fish baskets and pellet guns to get rid of the large nasty rodents.
  3. Railroad engineering, which seemed to be pretty cool and you didn’t even have to steer the train.
  4. Becoming an astronaut — the space program was up and running and I wanted to wear one of those suits and fly to the moon. 

Upon becoming a teenager those youthful ideas had been discarded as stupid and child-like and my thinking had moved to a different realm where only the 16-year-old know-it-all brain abides. These ideas were much more grandiose and infinitely more practical. I’d pretty well settled on the fact that I would become a professional basketball or baseball player and those notions lasted until I got to college. The basketball dream was dashed when one Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell who was then playing for UNCC (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) and later on the Boston Celtics, blocked every one of my attempts at driving layups and knocked one of them about eight rows up in the Greensboro Coliseum. He also put four stitches in my head, and called me a bad name for having the audacity to try to invade his domain. That was the end of my professional basketball dream stage. The baseball vision vanished in similar fashion when I witnessed my first ninety mile-an-hour fastball and ultra-nasty slider, neither of which I could have made contact with even if I’d brought a boat paddle to the plate with me.

At that point I was approaching the end of my college career so I really needed to make a move. I had pretty much partied up until then and just wasted the rest of my time. Daddy had told me I could always come back to the farm and that possibility chilled my blood and helped me focus. I thought about law school but there were certain drawbacks to that line of work. It had taken me six years to get through my undergraduate work and in order to get a law degree the typical course of study averaged about four more years. I quickly extrapolated that it would probably take me eight years to finish law school based on my past scholastic performance and by then I would either be a graybeard or Daddy would have called me back to the farm to earn my keep. Neither of those appealed to me.

So I became a coach and a teacher.

As it turned out it was a good decision. I enjoyed it, worked at it for nearly four decades and was able to help a lot of kids along the way but I was never able to come up with a good way to help them figure out what they wanted to do with their life.

The truth of the matter is that it’s tough for a young person to really know what they want to do. When we ask teenagers that question it should be remembered they have a brain that can’t see past sundown and it takes a little time for them to learn how to think in terms of the long haul.  

Maybe the best answer is that it’s kind of a trial and error thing because there are a lot of hazards on our way to finding an occupation.

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