Trenton and grades never saw eye to eye. It was a frustration for us throughout his school life. Can he just pass the spelling test tomorrow? Can we just get him to the next grade? Can we just get him out of high school? It didn't matter that tests showed him with a high IQ; it was still frustrating. It began with dyslexia in elementary and didn’t stop until cancer during his senior year. Then, all of a sudden, grades didn’t matter. We were focused on a new journey. Yet, despite being out of school over a third of the year while going through chemo, Trenton graduated on time, thanks to effort from him and his “facilitators” (they’re not teachers at New Tech High in Coppell).
Our family sat in the graduation ceremony, Valerie and I looking at each other, wondering if he was REALLY graduating, because I had decided not to look at his final grades. I realized they didn’t matter; the fact he graduated was bigger than the grades themselves. Besides, the grades were solely to get him into college, and they did. It was on to the next journey.
Trenton had fallen, head over heels, for video games in middle school, and expressed interest in pursuing video game development in college. While not against it, I advised him, “Trent, PLAYING video games and BUILDING video games are two different things. I’ve been driving cars for thirty years; it doesn’t mean I’d like building engines.” The result: Trent is about to graduate with a degree in computer science, specializing in software development, which is a field in high demand. His team won the class competition by developing this video game called "Death Brawl," and no, it is not a game of social media driven political discourse. He tutored other students at the engineering college. He has a 3.6 GPA in his major. And he enjoys it. I believe I give good advice, but it’s OK when my kids make their own decisions and it works out. So, it is now on to the next journey: a career.
Although Austin and Allison have great personalities and senses of humor, the advice I’ve given them includes, “Get out of your comfort zone,” and, “Be the first to shake hands and start a conversation.” With Trent, I had to tell him, “People don’t care what you know until they know you care,” and “You can learn more from listening than talking.” The result: Trenton is now applying with and interviewing a variety of companies including online search, defense, telecom, electric vehicles and others (he even interviewed with a company that handles security technology for the phones on Air Force One). During a recent meeting, a friend of mine who used to run HR for a large software company told Trent that he is rare in his field, being able to write software code and actually communicate about it with non-geek humans. I believe I give good advice, but it’s OK when my kids make their own decisions yada yada.
It has been a wild journey just to reach the beginning. And that’s my point. We spend our whole lives on journeys. Some are relatively small, with impact so insignificant we don’t realize until later that it was the journey. Other journeys have impact that defines us deeply, but all our journeys always lead to the beginning of another. It’s my guess that most of us, in the middle of a journey, are looking to its end rather than the present or what comes next. “Everything will be OK if I can just get…a promotion? Married? Divorced? A new house? A diploma? Continue this to the end of life and then what? That’s where those of us who are Christian have comfort in knowing all this is just a bunch of journeys to the beginning.
So, back to what I already said. Frustrating with a high IQ (to be clear, Trenton didn't test at the genius level, but certainly above average). Much of the world isn't comfortable around those with high IQ’s who don't fit the norm. Edison. Einstein. Jobs. Who’s changed the world? The average IQ with the average thinking and the average life? Hardly. If you can appreciate being with high IQ’s that don’t fit with the “average” world, you might just be at the epicenter of changing it (no pressure, Trent). That can be a great journey.
I hope my kids are aware of their journeys and making the most of them. That means not settling into a low-risk life (no-risk life doesn’t exist) of getting by, avoiding change, simply surviving the same ol’ same ol’. Allison is finishing the first year of her most recent journey – college. Trent, as already explained, is on the verge of beginning his next journey. Austin and Kira are scheduled for a new journey around October 4th. Same date for Valerie and me when we become grandparents – yes, GRANDPAREEEEEeeeeeeennntts (I'm uncertain whether the exclamative grandparents is spelled with five capitalized E’s or eight), but I’m constantly pushing for new journeys too.
This song came out when Allison was a toddler, so it is special to me, but it applies to Trenton and Austin too. Kids, I hope you dance. I wish I could have changed many of my journeys, but for the opportunity to dance, I'm still thankful.
P.S. “Never settle for the path of least resistance.” Check.