I spent my early life planning for a career and raising a family. I have almost completed these tasks, and so I am turning my attention to my retirement which is a mere dozen years away. Where has life gone? It wasn't long ago that I could hardly wait for Christmas to come around again. At fifty-three, I'm not so anxious about speeding up the calendar.
I do want to be prepared for retirement. For me, retirement doesn't mean sitting around doing nothing; in a couple of years, I want to teach at a small college in the mountains of the Kentucky, Tennessee, or Virginia. During this time, I can finish my second book and then spend time finding a publisher for my first volume. Therefore, I spent my summer vacation stopping at over a dozen schools in the mid-South to see firsthand what the communities and colleges there had to offer. I had no idea what Pippa Passes, KY or Bridgewater College were like. Even though I researched each of the locales, it is hard to tell whether I would like a school or town while sitting a top Wolverton Mountain?
While driving through Danville, KY, I stopped at a filling station to ask an old man, who spent most of his time swatting flies and only occasionally had to pump gas, what it was like around there. I wanted to know about Centre College and the town of Danville.
The old man listened to my questions about the town and school. He was slow to respond; I had to wait until he killed a fly and maimed another. Finally, his answer came in the form of a story:
"One day while sitting on this very porch with my Grandpa back when this gas station was a general store, a stranger stopped just like you to ask about the town. He wanted to know whether it was a good place to live. My Grandpa rocked back and forth several times and finally asked the stranger a question. 'What was the town like that you came from?' The traveler replied, 'It wasn't a good place at all. The people weren't friendly and no one got along or did anything for anyone else. That's why I am moving away and want to know about this town.'
"My Grandpa said to the stranger that this town is a lot like the one that he had just come from.
"Later that day, another stranger stopped to inquire about the suitability of our town. My Grandpa asked the same question that he had asked the first man: 'What was the town like that you came from?'
"The stranger quickly responded. 'It was a great place to live; I'll miss it. That's why I want to know about this town.'
"My Grandpa said to the second stranger, 'You'll like this town; it's a lot like the one that you came from.'
"As a young boy, I couldn't understand why my Grandpa had two different responses about our town for the inquiring strangers
"So, I confronted my Grandpa about the discrepancy. He just rocked back and as he rocked forward said, 'Each man will find what he expects to find in our town. They carry with them their predictions of the future.'"
The old man looked at me as he finished filling my gas tank and asked, "Son, what's the town like that you might soon be leaving?"
I got his message. While it is a cute story, it reveals a fundamental truth about life. Reality is what one perceives as real. The town remained unchanged; only the visitors' mind set mattered. What the town and people were like had to do with how the strangers viewed reality not how the town was. Their preconceived notions affected the reality of what they will ultimately experience.
What is true with moving to a different town is true with all other aspects of life. Life is what you make it. Therefore, be careful of how you view your world; it will become what you think it will. By the way, Danville is a pretty nice little college town. I could be content there.
This article first appeared in the Dixon Telegraph.