We Are Not Who We Were
As I creep ever so close to my seventh decade on earth, I think more and more about who I was, and more importantly, who I have become. Especially, now...who I have become.
Our eyes always remind us of how we have changed on the outside. Every time we gaze into a mirror, look at an old photograph, or glance toward a storefront window. We see change. However, these images only show how we have changed on the outside. We must look deep inside to understand why and how we have changed on the inside. Sadly, the inside is something others will never see, nor understand.
This is a high school photo of me, Coach Joe Marra, and Larry Alvaro taken in the late Summer of 1966. Larry and I were both 17, co-captains of our high school football team, the Washington Irving Hilltoppers in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
Larry and I were teammates for six years. Then, we thought little about change.
Thirteen years later, I was a high school teacher and coach. On the outside and especially inside, I was changing. My wife Sandra received this picture from one of my former students at Kellam High school in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Notice the very stylish early stages of my handlebar mustache, the flare-legged pants, the slightly receding hairline, and the ever-present pocket protector. Remember, it was 1979.
Life was changing me, not only on the outside, but especially on the inside.
And here I am today – 38 years after the Kellam High School picture. This was taken in December, 2017 at The Four Horseman Comics and Gaming in Bridgeport, West Virginia. My last book signing of the year.
If we are fortunate to live a long life, we obviously change on the outside, as these pictures indicate. However, we also change, perhaps even more on the inside. It is this 'inside' which defines who we have become...not who we were.
I have a very dear friend who has actually changed very little on the outside, but he has grown and changed to monumental proportions on the inside. Today, he is a successful minister, with a faithful congregation, with a beautiful family. A far cry from the ‘wondering’ live for the weekend teenagers of our past.
Another high school friend has grown into a very successful artist. One, who lived rather close to me as teens, became a very successful photographer. I still remember working with him one Summer on the pipeline crew for the Hope Gas. Never a clue. Another in particular, I will never forget. He was an average student in school, rather frail, not very popular, and quiet. He became a decorated fighter pilot and retired with the rank of Colonel. Who would have ever guessed.
Often, so much of life is wasted on thoughts such as: Him, a minister! Why did he become a minister? How did she learn to paint? Her watercolors are beautiful! How did he become such a good photographer? I never realized. Wow, and he was a fighter pilot! He was such a dud in school. He was... She was not...
Yes, the years change us on the outside. But… heartbreak, joy, opportunity, misfortune, fate, accidents, disease, and God changes us on the inside. Which will you embrace? I think I will choose both.
Until next time.
“Your humor is absolutely spot-on and intelligent, peppered with a bit of sarcasm and childlike wonder. Your stories have that element of memory, poignant and comic at times, but always heartfelt and affecting. Your language is simple and friendly, weaved seamlessly in your narrative that is consistently lighthearted and warm in tone. Your experience as a teacher shows in your elaborate, playful descriptions and your sharp, unpretentious irony. I am also impressed with the way your structured the book—as a collection of short stories in no chronological order as opposed to one big chunk of episodic chapters that are more or less akin to a journal. It serves the tone and heart of your words perfectly.”
“Mike: Thank you for the copy of your book “Life through these Eyes.”
I am honored that you gave me one of the first copies. I have had the opportunity to read several chapters today and must say that I am impressed. You are a very talented writer. Congratulations my friend! Best, Andy”