I Should Have Read The Book
Upon my high School graduation in 1975, my late, great Cousin Dennis gave me a book to read as a graduation gift. I knew Dennis was coming to the ceremonies, and I was anticipating an expensive gift from him since he was a lawyer. But all I got was a paperback book that cost him $2.95 down at the Rexall. I gratefully thanked him for it, and had every intention of reading it, but I never got around to it. I had received other gifts from other family members, mostly things like pen and pencil sets and cards with money in them. I thought that the best gift that I had gotten back then was the one from my oldest brother, Norm. He got me a case of Schlitz tall boys and a Playboy magazine. Talk about paving a road to ruin.
That was 36 years ago. At that time, I thought that my brother’s gift was the only one that had any merit. That was what I was about back then, partying and having a good time. I didn’t think about tomorrow, I didn’t think about planning ahead any farther than Saturday night. My brother is ten years older than me, and from what I can tell, he hasn’t changed much. No planning, no forethought to what his actions may have caused. He had gotten married and divorced four times during the time that Sammie and I have been together. I idolized him. I looked up to him only to find out that I was just a misguided youth influenced by a big oaf.
But I caught on quickly to my mistakes and straightened myself out, eventually. It took a while, but I did it. But when I realized suddenly that I should have read that book, it was too late. For one, the book was long gone, either thrown away or packed up by my folks when I married Sammie. For another, I was locked into parenthood and a full time job in the labor sector. I couldn’t afford to take the time to educate myself until the kids were older and more self-sufficient.
I looked for the book in stores, and couldn’t find it. I still haven’t found it. So I tried to do my best to do what I think the book had to say to me, and improve my life and accomplish goals. I’m still trying, and things have gotten a lot better. I managed to finish college and get halfway through law school (which of course was Dennis’ influence), but I still had obligations to meet and I had to sidestep finishing school. Someday I will.
As for Cousin Dennis, he is not with us anymore. He passed away a couple of years ago of heart failure due to an illness. But in his lifetime, he was focused. He graduated from Stanford Law, worked as a Civil Rights attorney in New York City, sat on the bench in Manhattan as a Judge, founded a Civil Rights organization and eventually became the Civil Rights Commissioner of New York. We are all so proud of him, and to lose him was a devastating time to our family.
But like I said, Dennis was focused. He read the book. Twice. He probably could have written it. I wish that I could have had a fraction of the focus that Dennis had.
But you can’t go back and dwell on mistakes. You can only move forward.
I think that my message here is to the youth of this planet. Life can be good for you right now, you may have your mom and dad footing your every need for you as mine did. I didn’t have a care in the world, so why not party? I had false anticipations of my future and became hedonistic. But you must be focused. You must be serious about your future and about your life because once you are handed that diploma, it’s all you. Everyone is watching you, so you’d better make some good decisions. And if you’re mulling over your graduation gifts, keep in mind that the best ones aren’t always the most expensive.
The name of the book spells it all out for you: “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’re Probably Going To Wind Up Somewhere Else.”
©2011 by Del Banks