A farmer, a car salesman, and a preacher walk into a bar

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and it’s gotten me thinking lately about the road not taken: a car salesman, preacher, insurance carrier, farmer, and steel worker to name a few possible roads.

These are all fine careers.

tie-690084_640When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get out of my hometown and make something of myself. I considered different professions — Journalism, Education, Psychology, Business — and all needed drive, passion, a ton of hard work and most importantly two key elements: a bachelors degree and a small fortune to make a reality.

If the biggest threat to my dream, the loan money, failed to become a reality, I figured out pretty early-on that I would need a fall back. I considered lots of options. I knew that starting centerfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates was already taken. I held onto the hope of being the middle linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but considering I stood less than 5’7″, relatively tiny for the National Football league, that dream soon died too.

My other fallback options:

barn-392967_1920–Farmer. A tough job and while farming runs deep in my mother’s family, I would’ve been a horrible farmer, downright horrible. I worked a couple summers on a local friend’s farm and it always surprised me that he kept asking me back. He had to be desperate, crazy, or simply taking pity on me. I never figured out which. The passing of time hasn’t helped. Every few years I get the itch to plant a small family garden. It usually ends up looking pretty ugly. The last time I had the itch, I tried to plant a couple tomato plants and a few other vegetables along the side of our house and ended up with a flooded mess. If plants could pick up their roots and run, they’d run from me.

–Preacher, insurance salesman, and car salesman. When I was a kid, I skimmed through the yellow pages (remember what they looked like) and laughed when I saw more listings in my hometown for preachers, insurance salesman and car salesman than any other profession. I took it a step further and tried to envision myself in either of the three roles and couldn’t help but laugh. Me, a preacher? Selling people on the idea of heaven and saving their souls? No way. Um forget it. I hated talking to strangers, I couldn’t imagine trying to sell someone on an insurance policy or a rusted bucket of bolts either.

steel-mill-616526_640–Factory worker. While a reputable decision, I threw the idea out before it ever had time to grow. The local steel mill took a big part of my father’s life. My father had a heart attack in his early 40s. The long hours of hard work and stress (as well as his smoking habit and inherited genes) played a big part in contributing to the attack. For me looking in from the outside, though, I blamed the steel mill and its tough environment for helping take the best years of my father’s life.

–Construction worker, carpenter, or mechanic. While abundant in my hometown, I never really had the type of skills I would’ve needed to be a good construction worker. I still don’t. I think in words not pictures. My father used to recite the figure of speech “measure twice, cut once.” Yea, I never had the patience for that, I wanted to cut right away, the quicker I could get back to the book that my father had made me put down to help him. Yea, wisdom is lost on the youth. My decision here was cemented when I worked two summers as a roofer. The job paid well. I made a ton of money in a few short months, but the work each day in the hot sun was tough and took a toll on my body.

–If push came to shove and college never happened, I probably would have enlisted in the Army or Navy.  I would have excelled at being part of something bigger than myself and I would have loved the opportunity to travel and see the world. I would have even liked being part of a unit and would’ve been fine with authority. While all nice and good, I would have hated having to do extra push-ups or go on a ten mile run simply because someone else wasn’t paying attention or failed to follow direction.

write-593333_640In any event, I had a few close moments, but fortunately for me I was able to find the money for college and survive the work that came with it. (I took loans and more loans and more loans, but I made it and eventually paid them all back.) When I was down, when I thought I couldn’t study another hour, I pushed myself to work harder, to put in more hours, to do the work. It was hard, but, in the end, it was well worth it.

For me anyway, “two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

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