I’ve always admired sure hands.
From a carpenter sawing a piece of wood precisely and nailing it into place, to my wife fashioning an omelet with almost metered symmetry, I so admire the sureness of movement; the minimization of redundancy, the completion of an effortless task.
To that same end, I have always envied people who know the exact direction they want to go with their lives–friends who spoke to me as early as seventh grade and said, “I want to be an architect,” and then, years later, I would run into them and, sure enough, they had become an architect.
Such focus, such a complete life, such an admirable path.
As I grow older, I have come to have even more respect for such things because I now know how easy it is to get side-tracked during this journey we call “life.”
The best-intended person in the world will wander off course easily due to the impact of an unexpected circumstance.
Be it an unplanned illness or injury, a family situation like divorce or unexpected death, or perhaps even an unexpected pregnancy, the momentum of life brings with it a wake that washes lots of extra responsibilities onto the shores of a life.
I have come to the conclusion, however, that the passions we have in our youth, even if they are not fully realized as we thought they would be, nestle in the fruition of the life we come to lead.
That is to say, “the truth lies within.” Our real interests become manifested in some way or another.
So while considering all this, I tried to draw back to my early years when I was only 8 or 10 years old and people began to pose the question, “So what do you think you want to be someday?”
What did I really know about myself?
I recall I wanted a little convertible Volkswagen like the neighbor’s teenage son had. I knew I wanted a dog, and I recall feeling overwhelming amounts of comfort and satisfaction when I finally got one.
And I was pretty sure I wanted to work for Walt Disney as a cartoonist. By the time I was 12, I’d read several versions of his biography. The favorite one of these I had taken out of the school library so many times that they came to just automatically renew the book in my name each month.
I was fascinated by the story of how he came to fashion the Mickey Mouse character, and I couldn’t get over the fact that from that little drawing came a whole world of success and impressions.
I went to work on my own “Mickey Mouse,” trying to find a “character” I could draw quickly and easily. After several iterations, I grew frustrated and pondered what I should include as the character’s “back story” that would make him unique and iconic.
I knew my character had to be a reflection of me, so he had to have compassion and be a lover of animals.
I knew he’d be articulate, because I’d already found I had a love of telling stories and sharing tales.
I knew he’d be a good listener and great observer, because I had a curious fascination with how people “did things.”
And I knew he’d drive a funky little car with the top down–like that neighbor kid’s Volkswagen.
As fate would have it though, I never found that character. I never figured out how my Mickey would look.
Years passed, and I had many hobbies in school. I was president of student council many times and I loved making speeches and providing direction to fellow students, both by example and through presentations.
Everyone told me to be a career politician, but I found it too dishonest. It seemed even if you entered politics squeaky clean you didn’t stay that way.
Then everyone told me to be a lawyer–so I sat for the Law School Entrance Exams. But the mundane years of research and pre-partner responsibilities turned me off.
So with business degree in hand, I went to work for the Park District and worked my way up and through the levels until I landed a handsome role in the executive offices. Then I completed my Master’s Degree in Business.
And while that was very satisfying, I always was writing articles for various magazines and newspapers on the side.
And then I began doing this column (“A Step Ahead”) for Parks & Rec Business magazine, and I began to grow a base of support from professionals who admired and sought out my essays and work.
Some of my essays began to appear in PRB’s sister magazine, Camp Business, as well. We gathered those essays and produced a book (“A Step Ahead; Collected Essays of Ron Ciancutti”).
The response from the book initiated the idea of a blog, and that is how I have come to communicate twice a month with this audience through The Week-Ender.
So what’s the punch line? Can I forgive myself for not having the sure path and clairvoyant vision of my selected peers? Did my lack of specific direction mar my dedication to a life of complete satisfaction?
Well, I think not.
I very much appreciate and love my job with the Park District, and that gives me a lot of professional satisfaction. The writing I do satiates the part of me that always wanted to shape lives, provide direction and add beauty to other’s lives.
I pondered all of this as I was walking my dog this morning (my fifth dog since the continuous line began when I was 8 years old). I smiled with satisfaction as I unleashed him and put him in the back yard and closed the gate behind me this morning.
The character I’d been seeking…was me.
I dropped into my little VW Jetta and decided to open the roof all the way today—sure, it was cool outside, but look at the many beautiful colors of the falling leaves!
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.