“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
One of the things I’ve taken pride in is my refusal to fit in with the crowd. I’ve always believed that just because something is popular, doesn’t make it right. I’m not perfect by any means, nor would I ever claim to be. In fact, I’m just as flawed as anyone else, and I have made my fair share of mistakes in life. But, I do try to learn from those mistakes. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. If that’s the case, I see a lot of insanity around me in the world today.
Growing up in a family that went from just my adopted parents and me to seven additional children, for a grand total of 10 people, had a lot to do with the paths I chose in my life. Being in an abusive relationship prior to that also contributed in myriad ways. For example, I knew I wanted to be a parent to rectify the mistakes my natural parents had made with me.
At seven, I was changing my newborn sister’s diapers. By the time I was 18, I had changed thousands of diapers and was essentially a third parent to my siblings. I learned about responsibilities very quickly in life. I learned how important it was to chip in and pull my fair share of the weight in a family unit.
While some of my classmates were playing football or marching in the band, I was learning life skills of a different sort in the Future Farmers of America. When many of my friends were home playing video games, I was on camping trips with the Boy Scouts or running in cross country meets. And, while many of my peers were watching TV, I was playing Rumpelstiltskin in the junior class play and arguing for the passage of a bill at the Model General assembly. For the record, I had classmates who were doing even far more than myself – I always give accolades to those who go above and beyond.
As I approached the age of 18, I entered the world of choosing a college. In Virginia, there were many outstanding options such as UVA, Virginia Tech and William and Mary to mention a few. There were also the options that were what I considered to be mediocre – Radford and Longwood, for example. But, life is funny, and I made a connection with an individual who was an alumnus of the Virginia Military Institute. This was my first real-life altering path choice. Before my 18th birthday, I joined the Virginia Army National Guard and was accepted into VMI. Instead of partying, I was waking up at 6:00 AM to screaming upper class men for a “sweat party.” Rather than pledging to some fraternity, I was becoming part of an all-male military school where we wore uniforms and marched in parades with flags waving and crowds gathered to watch us on Friday afternoons.
Many of the paths I am currently on today are a direct result of the paths I chose in my past. I still wake up at 4:00 in the morning (sleeping in late in the military isn’t a thing). At 6:00 AM, I’m out the door running four miles no matter what the weather. My dedication and discipline go hand in hand with my experiences in the Boy Scouts, the Army and at VMI.
At the age of 26, I chose the path of becoming an educator. For 16 years, I taught almost every subject at one point or another and coached cross country as well as track. That path changed for me six years ago when I left the education system. I began helping a friend with his general contracting company and found great joy in learning to create and build with my own hands. Not to be too boastful, but I’ve actually become quite skilled thanks to my friend, Shannon, who took me under his wing to guide me and teach me. I’m forever grateful to him.
At the ages of 27 and 30, I chose the path of fatherhood. My two sons, Jakob and Logan, 22 and 19, are by far my greatest accomplishments in life.
Five years ago, I came to yet another fork in the road. I was presented with an opportunity to work for a company that contracts with the PGA Tour. Being one to never turn down a good old-fashioned challenge, I took the position. For the past five years, I’ve logged thousands of miles and have spent many nights on the road in different cities across the US. It’s a physically and mentally demanding job, but it keeps me on my toes, and I still love the traveling aspect. It is true what they say, when you enjoy what you do, it’s not really work.
Standing now on a hill with the setting sun in front of me, I slowly turn around and view the life I’ve lived so far. Off in the distance, there are dark storm clouds and areas where the path was rocky and difficult. But, the paths always smoothed out, and the lessons I learned helped me to navigate the route whenever it became treacherous again. Combine those lessons with the support of loved ones and friends, and I have found myself standing where I am today. God willing, there will be even more paths to choose from. I look forward with great anticipation to seeing where each and every one of those paths will lead me.