Taking the road less traveled


This may be the last column I write.

I know more people will say it’s about time than say it’s a shame. Most will probably just say “what column?”

A trip to my 60th high school class reunion last weekend made me look at the small changes in the directions of my life, changes made by what seemed like simple decisions along the way. All of us old folks can point to these seemingly meaningless decisions. All you young folks: be aware.

In the eighth grade I was sent with other top students to take statewide tests. I got an award in English and science. I think third place in state for English. That same year I made a decision to stop being such a top student because I was shy and hated the attention. Mistake one.

I had a role model, my older brother, who was a joker and a terminal hooky-player. I decided to follow his example – but without the social graces to pull it off. Mistake two.

In the ninth grade I was running a movie projector in a class (a holdover award from my good-student days). When the teacher didn’t return, I ran the film backward instead of just rewinding it. I got laughs. I got caught. The teacher kicked me out of his algebra class and would not let me back in. Going into high school I was branded a truant for missing school and a slow learner because I failed algebra. These major decisions were made by others but began with my decision to be a joker. My dad died that year and could not come to my defense nor hit me upside the head.

At a PTA meeting later that year my English teacher read my class assignment of a short story to show the potential of a talented but “troubled” student. I decided to be a writer. I could put my crazy reading habits, sense of humor and observations of people from afar to good use without having my shyness trip me up.

My brother’s and my reputations preceded me into high school. Despite my English test score I was put into remedial English. Bad break. This was the wrong teacher in the wrong class. This woman hated my brother and 20 minutes after asking if he was my brother, she threw me out for the term for leaning over and listening to someone. The next year was a repeat. So much for my brother as my role model. That year I was thrown out of every class and spent my time in the office or the library all day. Same thing my “junior” year.

My decisions in school made it where I wasn’t even part of my reunion class. For all intents I wasn’t even there the three years I spent in high school. I had excluded myself. Any chances that I would be a part of it were nullified by my small choices. I dated no one in school. I was shy. I was poor. I was just not part of any group besides outsiders and outcasts.

But my main mistakes came later in getting married and having kids too early, which led me to thinking that before I wrote I had to become successful, work long hours, go to school, get promoted.

When reading Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Less Traveled,” I now wonder how you even know that you are at a fork in the road when you are young. Just veering a little, how do you know how far you will end up from where you want to be?

Writing is what I was always going to do. Since I was 14. All my life I was a writer. While I was a soldier, a factory worker, a manager, a husband and father – underneath I thought I was a writer. I just had to wait.

I started my book 20 years ago. It’s a worker’s observations of the history of manual labor’s entry and expulsion from the middle class in America society during the mid-20th century. I think I have a unique perspective – a writer who knows what it is to be there. Watching my dad arrested while on strike, being in a union, doing battle with a union while in management, watching jobs grow to an honorable living wage, then watching them shrink in value and numbers. I need to finish this book.

For two and a half years this column has been fun but really just another way to put off my real job. I may have time to write a column in the future because I think it is important to show the liberal point of view of the working class in politics. But first the book. I have decided.

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By Jack Robinson

Contributing columnist

Jack Robinson is a freelance writer who lives in Piqua with his wife, Sharon. His blog is Voiceforthe99%.blogspot.com.

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