Life’s Ambitions

       Who I am is not what I set out to be… About the age of ten I formulated my first career ambition. I wanted to be a football player. This ambition lasted for seven years until the night of the last football practice of my senior year in high school. That night I recognized that I would not get a scholarship to play football in college. It was time to find a new ambition for my life.
       I decided to go to college and major in theater. My first semester I landed a role in a major production of the college theater. The acting went well, but I nearly flunked all of my academic courses. Second semester I dropped acting and focused on the traditional academic subjects. My grades improved and I became interested in social issues. There was a new American president and he was challenging young Americans to ask not what their country could do for them, but what they could do for their country.
       I had a new ambition. The second semester of my sophomore year I was accepted as a Peace Corps volunteer. Two years overseas matured me, but it did not clarify my ambition for a life’s work. Back home I returned to college and married. It was time to find a place in the adult world. I imagined combining my growing spiritual interests with my social interest and become a clergyman. Five years later, I was a college and seminary graduate, and the father of two children. I was set for a respectable career as a minister until the Presbyterian Church refused to ordain me because of my theological and social ideas. It was time again to find a new ambition.
       I had discovered in living with my own children that I communicated well with kids. I imagined myself as a writer of children’s books. I took a job working in a steel mill and spent my free time writing children’s stories. In two years I published one story in a church magazine. One day, my wife suggested that I try telling my stories in performance. At the age of thirty I started a pre-school story hour in the local library; my ambition to be an oral storyteller was born.
       For thirty-five years I traveled the mid-Atlantic states telling stories to children in schools, libraries and camps. Then four years ago, at the age of sixty-four, I discovered that my storytelling business was waning. It was time for a new ambition, a new way to look at life and my work. I did not give up my love of telling stories to children, but I discovered a new ambition for creating stories that I have come to think of as the stories for the last third of my life. This may be overly optimistic, but it has created a new focus for my life’s work…who I am may not be what I set out to be, but it is who I was meant to be.

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