Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Disappointments are memorable

When does one finally realize they are getting old?  Is it when we no longer look forward to Friday nights—going out to the bar or the movies?  Is it when we buy tour first car that has four-doors or that gas saving motor?  Perhaps it is when our high school reunion rolls over from one-digit to two-digits?
What ever your demarcation is, or will be, there comes a time when each of us must acknowledge that time has continued, as we were busy living.  We actually never realize the progression of age.  At least not as we notice it on others.  How many times have we meat an old “friend” from the distant past and the first thing we think is “Do I look that good / bad?”  Or we find ourselves out in the community at some event or strolling the local big box store and we notice some one looking at us.  We wonder are they flirting?  DO they know me?  OMG, they are so OLD, why would they even think…then we realize the ultimate truth—we are about the same age—which means—I AM OLD.
Yeah, tell me something new.  Actually this is not the point I am coming to.  Age is but a slice of the blooming onion.  There ARE many other slices such as education, economic status, employment, community, and the ability to access these and other slices slice with dignity and respect.
The focus of this SNARK sprung to life as a result of a personal disappointment.  Not that this was any more disappointing that having worked in the same career for over 20 years and I am barely making what I did when I started in 1995.  We are all told that work hard, it will pay off.   Do what you love; it has its own rewards.  Stay focused and on point and your efforts will be recognized.
But what if you go above and beyond, but you just don’t hold the party line?  Or worse yet, you are unable to without compromising your clients?
But as usual, I digress.  Returning to the topic at hand, which was what exactly?
OH, it was being able, or actually ALLOWED to access the onion with dignity and respect and how I survived yet another personal disappointment today.   It is this event that once again brought me to think about a friend I never got around to seeing as often as I should have since I left Madison, Wisconsin in 1997.
When I met Mark, he was the epitome of dignity and respect.  The poster-person for determination if there ever was going to be such a person.  Mark grew up in Madison, went to school in Madison, and lived every day (except the days I took him out of the state) in Madison as if he was on a new adventure.  Mark had two, TWO degrees from the Madison Area Technical College—one in CISCO and the other in Microsoft Office.  Either one would have been a ticket to prosperity back in the early 1990s.
Mark had a very active social life.  He was often seen on State Street during the day, in and out of the shops and when he reached the University Union, he stopped for a bit, and slurped on a cold cola, maybe a burger and fries.  Then he would head back towards the Capitol on State Street, stopping to chat with all the people he knew, and all those he had not met, until that day.  Mark would get on the 25 bus, and head home for some dinner, a shower and a few hours of programming before dinner.
After dinner, mark was back on State Street from 8:00 P.M until 1:00 A.M Monday through Thursday.  He always finished the night at the local college bar, Bullwinkle’s.  There he would dance the night away.   The women he knew from his previous excursions always had a few new friends who had all heard about Mark.  By 1:00 A.M. Mark was ready to head back home and get an early start in the morning.  By all appearances, Mark was having the time of his young life
Yet, every day Mark experienced disappointment in his personal life, particularly in the area of employment. Having completed two IT programs still was not enough to get Mark an offer for employment.  Once he had an offer to do some work for a nonprofit doing data entry in a spreadsheet, but once that job was completed, there was no other offers waiting.  Mark tried several other avenues, designing websites on some of those free hosting sites as a way of advertising his talent.  Everyday, Mark anticipated a knock at his door, a letter in the mailbox, an email from a stranger or a phone call from an enthusiastic employer who had discovered his skills.  There was nothing but SILENCE.
Eventually, after too many disappointments, possibilities no longer shine as they once had.  The morning is no longer an exciting event and your friends are not as interesting as they were yesterday.
That is what I felt when I was faced with my latest disappointment.  I understood what it feels like to always do your best.  To put that best foot forward and always, always provide a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.  Only Marko never had that opportunity to work with dignity and respect.  Having dignity and respect in one’s social life is great and all, but it is having respect and dignity via work is what validates us as human beings, not just a life form, but a contributing member of our community.  Be it good or be it bad, our work defines who we are and gives all of us standing within our society.  So when I encounter disappointment, and I wonder just how I can deal with yet another set back, I think of Mark.
He NEVER was given the opportunity to be employed with dignity and never had the respect associated with holding your own.  Even though there was no pressure on Mark, there was no realistic reason why Mark should have been concerned with securing employment, because Mark had fought his entire life for dignity and respect from the day he was born.  Beginning September 08, 1970, everyday was a struggle for dignity and respect.  Living with cerebral palsy, Mark never asked for favors.  He never took charity.  Rather, he dove into every experience for all it was worth.
But eventually we all grow weary of the battle.  Even when we look back at all our victories, there is always ONE tat has eluded us.  The one we will never overcome and claim as ours.  For Mark, that was employment with dignity and respect.  It wasn’t the money (though money does make some jobs easier), the benefits, or even the actual work.  As it is for many of us, work allows us to bond with others who hopefully share our passion.  Who take us in and embrace us when we are successful, and they take us in and embrace us when we stumble—reminding us there is always another day.

But for Mark, on November 01, 2010, that next day would never come again.   Mark felt his community had let him stumble one to many times when it came to employment.  So Mark decided he had one last job he could do.  So he boarded the 25 bus one last time, and went for a one-way stroll down State Street, to the University Memorial Union.  From there, Mark directed his power chair across the isthmus to Monona Bay.  There, adjacent to Lake Monona, where Otis Redding’s lane went down December 10, 1967, Mark slipped from his power chair into the cold depths of history.

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