Whenever I reflect on the most important moments of my life it's always those seemingly insignificant and casual conversations that come to mind. In every possible way he could devise, my father tried to impart to me the lessons and values he had learned the hard way, hoping against hope that my journey would be less torturous than his own.
The most profound message that my Dad delivered to me was:
"Put in a little effort now and it will pay off for the rest of your life."
Of course, as a precocious (some say obnoxious) pre-teen I put more emphasis on the "little" than I did on the "effort." As a result I skated through my junior high and high school years with less than inspiring B/B- results. To say that I was Joe Average would be overstating the obvious. My high school graduation standing listed me as 150th in a graduating class of 300. Jim Hightower, that progressive scion, once said that the only thing you find in the middle of the road is roadkill. Well, he didn't know me. There I was, comfortable and complacent sunbathing right there on the solid double line next to a flattened and bloody possum.
Then, my little effort regressed to a miniscule effort and that B/B- magically became a C/C- during my first two years of college. Way to go kid.
Thankfully, after I endured science, math, sociology, pychology and all the other requirements that university students were once expected to master, I got to the real meat: theater, music, philosophy, art--the reason I attended college in the first place. I'm not sure whether I put in more effort because I enjoyed the subject matter and did well, or I enjoyed it more and did well because at that stage of life I was more willing to put in more than the minimum. Whatever the reason, I finished my last two years with a perfect 4.0 GPA and no one asks, nor do I volunteer, what my four year cumulative was. The diploma on my wall doesn't have an asterisk indicating that:
"We confer this degree on Josph Martini in spite of the fact that he f**ked up during his first two years."
As in golf, the scorecard just records the result, not that you had to hit it out of the trap to save par.
Lucky for me that this life is full of opportunities for redemption.
Next week my son will receive his high-school diploma. Next September he will attend college. I'm certain that he'll hit rough spots and have to hit it out of the sandtrap occasionally, metaphorically speaking. And I will have to be there to guide, advise and encourage while resisting the impulse to micro-manage his life.
I hope that I'm equal to the task.
In spite of all the mistakes I've made in these past eighteen years there are still opportunities for redemption.
Lucky for me.