Last night, I spent some time digging through an old file cabinet to find an old floppy disk for Mom. It contained copies of manuscripts she’d written about ten years ago; since she’s going to be taking some time off for her back surgery starting next week she wanted to do some work on them. It was impossible to root around the old, metal cabinet without coming across a plethora of stuff of Dad’s, and I found myself sorting through tons of old papers.
There was a lot of interesting stuff in there: old training manuals for a produce supervisor course at Associated Wholesale Grocers, newspaper ads, internal memos from his old office (including the one from his promotion that moved us to Tulsa from Claremore), and even old store schedule paperwork from before I was born. Next to the cabinet was a pair of old briefcases. In one, I found a LOT of old John Wayne stuff. Dad clipped newspaper articles that mentioned The Duke, and I found a lot of articles about his failing health and death in 1979. He even saved little adverts that mentioned television broadcasts of films. The second briefcase is the one that I find myself thinking about this morning, the one that inspired me to write today.
It was his old daily briefcase, which held mostly tax documents now, that commanded my attention. The tax stuff inside wasn’t important anymore, but the case itself represented my father at the end of his life than anything else I had. It was in disrepair; Dad had taped it length-wise to keep it in one piece. Although it still latched, the bottom bulged dangerously. Among the bulk of tax documents inside were a few other items: a few photocopies pictures of my mother, a nearly-spent tablet of paper with notes jotted down that spoke of a man trying to make himself into a better person after losing what was important to him, even printed out old emails that consisted of a few kind sentences. Dad was a man that could not let go of the past and move forward. He, like the briefcase, was a container full of old memories that was barely taped together.
I love my father very much, but he was not a perfect man. I look up to him immensely and model myself after the best of his behaviors while also trying to learn from his mistakes and shortcomings. I tend to get melancholy and morose when I feel like I’m spinning my wheels; I crave growth. Whether it’s in my work, in my personal relationships, or myself I am happiest when I am learning. When I dwell on things and rehash the past (something I’m infamous for) it’s a terrible spiral of over-thinking. I don’t want that. I look back at myself five, ten years ago and see a different me. Still me, sure, but I’m not the same person I was. Dad tried desperately to hold onto who he was; if he’d welcomed his future with the same energy, he might still be here today.
So, I look to the future. I look forward to who I will be tomorrow. As long as I never stop learning, I will continue to reinvent who I am. With stagnation comes complacency, and I’ve already seen what that does to me. I don’t think I can afford to take another 10 months off and travel the globe to jump-start my sense of purpose. Although, that would be nice…