As an aside before I begin this post, I find it interesting how much environment effects mindset. I composed most of this post while driving in to work this morning. As soon as I got here, I jotted down some “sign posts” for myself on my notepad to remind me how I wanted it to flow. I then sat down and started getting ready for my day of logical, analytical thinking. As things got busy, I didn’t get around to writing the post until now. I find that I am now having a hard time thinking the same way I was this morning. The “creative juices” just aren’t flowing that way now. Stuck in the overly logical mindset.
I have an advantage that many people sadly don’t have. Well, I suppose that there are several if you analyze my life, but what I am referring to here is the fact that I had amazing teachers when I went to school. I had at least one teacher every year I was in jr high and highschool that truly touched my life. Which is not meant to discount some of the amazing teachers I had in elementary school. I was truly blessed in the education dept. One teacher, though, truly stands out. Mr Ray was my creative writing teacher my Jr. year and my English teacher and adviser for the Literary magazine I was editor of my Sr year.
Mr Ray was a jazz musician who had taken about a decade off between highschool and college to tour the states with other great jazz musicians such as Gene Harris. Then he settled down and got married and started teaching. The man was a wealth of real world information, not just booksmarts, and very supportive of peoples dreams and nurturing intelligence. Not just classic intelligence but artistic and emotional intelligence as well. So, when he gave me advice, I usually took it to heart. At one point towards the end of my Sr year, he told me about what he called a Gentleman’s Journal. Now, I can’t find any reference online to this concept. Certainly not under that name, nor any other variations I could think of. The basic idea of this Journal was for a man to keep notes of quotations he liked, philosophical thoughts and ideas that occurred to him and advice for future generations. The way he told me about this concept was in telling me that he hoped I kept one and got it published so he could read it one day.
When he told me about that, I thought it was a neat idea and figured I might consider it. I wasn’t aware at that point how much of an impact the man had on my life or the significance of how highly I regarded his advice. Looking back on that day now, I’m deeply honored that he would be interested in reading my Gentleman’s Journal. I haven’t really kept such a thing in a single consolidated location, but I certainly have all of this scattered about from throughout the years. This blog as well as others. My facebook account. Journals and notebooks I have around my house. That sort of thing.
What brings all this to mind to me again is actually a lyric from a song I heard on my way to work this morning. It wasn’t a song I’d ever heard before, and I only caught a small snippet of it as I was cruising stations. “You only have one life to live, ” and another line I heard but don’t remember. This got me thinking about all the variations of that phrase I’ve heard, which got me wondering about people on their death beds. You hear things to the effect of you mostly regret the things you didn’t do. I wonder, though, if that’s generally true and what life lessons could be learned from truly plumbing the experience of people who have lived long full lives. Which brought me to the concept of the gentleman’s journal that Mr Ray had told me about all those years ago.
Now, I’m hardly old enough to give deep, meaningful life advice, but my completion to that quote would be “make it one you can be proud of.” Now, that’s going to have different meanings to different people, and I think that’s part of what makes it good advice. Trying to apply static advice to the masses is like trying to put the same dip on all foods. I love ranch, but I wouldn’t want it on my cheesecake!
Like anyone, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Maybe more than, considering all that I’ve been blessed with. However, I feel that our mistakes are a large part of who we are. They teach us, mold us and define us in to who we are just as much(maybe more so) than our successes. I have things I truly regret, but regret is part of who we are as well. The important part is, in my opinion, that we regret the right things and learn from them. That we take our mistakes and use them to help make us a better person. We all have mistakes, but if you can make the most of them, then you can live a life to be proud of.
I don’t think I’m any kind of expert on life or how to live it. My philosophies on the matter are a stew of other peoples advice I’ve been given over the years. I think it turns out pretty good, but like with any food, taste is subjective. I’m going to start compiling my Gentleman’s Journal. I have no delusions that I could possibly get it published, but thanks to Mr Ray, I have the gumption to try. So, I say to you: You have only have one life to live. Are you making it one you can be proud of?