Thursday, April 10th, 2014 – The Sixth Thursday in Lent
I have two sons, Nicholas and Martin.
Nicholas is completing his first two-year tour of duty as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in Kodiak, Alaska on the Cutter Alex Haley as an engineer. His mechanical engineering degree from the Coast Guard Academy was not a surprise: he has been fixing things and ‘doing work’ since he was three. His first costume request at Halloween was to appear as a backhoe. He is twenty-four and headed later this summer to a land-based posting in Miami, Florida for the next three years to keep a series of cutters seaworthy.
Martin graduates from the University of Mississippi in 30 days. He is a marketing major who wants to move into the alternative music world and find employment, preferably in Los Angeles. He, like Nick, was destined for this kind of work from an early age. His degree and his musical creativity will give him some needed skills (and flexibility) in an industry whose business plan changes seasonally. He is twenty-one.
Nick had some liberty last week so he took the time to go and visit his girlfriend, also a graduating senior at Ole Miss. I was able to go down for a quick visit and see them both simultaneously. That hasn’t happened recently with Nick at sea seven months a year.
What followed, during a sumptuous barbecue dinner located inside a gas station (I know,
I know), was a discussion about how Martin will fare after graduation. Under review were the logistical plans Martin has in place to get himself to LA and to get established with housing, job, contacts, etc. The resident engineer had appropriate concerns about funding streams, realistic time horizons, people who could help, housing options, and expense parameters. Martin had those covered to his own satisfaction. He was sure that Lieutenant Buzzkill wasn’t giving him enough love.
It was a rich parental moment. Neither was wrong. Then I saw it. Martin is an artist, true. But artist or not, he had the paramount question answered before we started: Why?
This desire to work in this industry is all he’s ever wanted to do. He has been on his Apple computer, guitar, and keyboards every day since middle school making some kind of music. He cannot not do this. The rest is logistics: critical, yes, but those logistics relate to who, what, where, when, and how. Though vital, in his mind they are just details. He’ll figure it out, is his take on it. Nick’s why has had to do with acquiring the experience, knowledge, and skills he has; what he will do after military service is still to be determined.
Why we are doing what we do is always the central question. Sometimes we learn that with experience; sometimes by intuition. Either way works. We just need to know.
Question for the day: Why are you doing what you’re doing?
– Christopher Powell