One Page Life

There is no way I can tell my life story in one page.

How could I do justice even to my childhood, as one of ten kids of a railroad clerk in East St. Louis and his saint of a wife, a couple who struggled to make ends meet until Dad went to work for the government as a mapmaker as the Cold War heated up? Could I convey how my parents unbreakable love for each other was the core of our nuclear family, powering it, and teaching me without words that this is the type of family I should one day have?

Would I have space to explain how our 1973 move to Washington DC was like getting to finally eat at the grown-up table, such was the difference between living in downstate Illinois and the capital of the free-world? My first summer was spent collecting autographs at the Capitol building and exotic beer bottles from the embassies on Massachusetts Avenue. Try doing that in Illinois.

I’d have to say something about Boy Scouts as that was the only thing I was good at, as an adolescent whose grades rarely topped a C in any class other than band (I was pretty good at playing the trumpet, too). And if I bring up scouts I must relate how I went all the way to Eagle Scout, the one rank you keep for life, but not this life, because I had to return mine 25 years later when the Supreme Court decided Boy Scouts could ban gays and this straight man decided discrimination is discrimination, period.

I could write an entire book just about high school where I got my mind off of horrible grades by playing the trumpet, doing theater and getting seriously into photography. My graduation slide show got me a job with a professional media company in Chicago where I moved at the age of 19 and eked out a college degree at night school, became outrageously enamored with movies and film-making, and at 22 started my own film production company that nearly bankrupted me by 25. So much for those dreams.

I’d have to tell of going back to school for a degree in software engineering, and my academic epiphany in a required but dreaded calculus class, realizing I was not only capable of higher math but that I loved it. My straight As earning that graduate degree propelled me into the prestigious University of Chicago business school where I earned an MBA and got jazzed by financial derivatives of all things. I would publish two books and teach at business schools myself, and thereafter make decent money as a financial systems analyst for a string of banks and trading companies, a career I keep to this day.

And what of my personal life? Do I reveal how my first marriage lasted all of one year, but that the next one was a million times better, producing a son and daughter any parents would be proud of? I’d have to disclose how that marriage also crashed to an early end, after 20 years.

And that’s where my life story would end, with a divorced dad about to turn 50, working at a bank to support kids he doesn’t get to see as much as he wants to, leading a life far different than the ones he once pictured like scenes in a great film, but with far more appreciation for simple things in life, the things that don’t make good movies but can make you truly happy if you just stop now and then to count your blessings.

My life story in one page? I don’t think so.

October 2012