For the last couple of years, I have worked with 24-year-old Lieutenant Jon on a long-standing government satellite program. Recently, Jon got accepted to medical school. He leaves this summer to embark on his journey to become a doctor. Also, more recently, he received his Air Force scholarship, which provides for his 4 years of medical school, as well as a generous stipend. Jon has his whole life and career ahead of him.
After our morning meeting, I congratulated Jon and shook his hand. “I’m happy for you,” I said. Graciously, Jon granted me permission to school and to guide him with my 30 years of Satellite Systems Engineering experience. The whole experience has left me feeling almost fatherly to Jon in a way.
Young Jon is smart, bright, athletic, and has a sense of humor; he’s just a good man. His parents did an awesome job raising him. We have accomplished valuable projects together for the Government and I couldn’t be prouder of him, even if he were my own son.
During our morning meeting, we discovered that one of our co-workers, Ray, who is about ten years older than me, was retiring in a couple of months. He’s a Ph.D. scientist, way smarter than me, and an all-around good man. I’ve also enjoyed working with Ray over the years, as he always provides illuminating, novel insight toward difficult problems.
After the meeting, I asked Ray, “So what are you going to do during your retirement.” I asked if he was going to come back and continue to work after he retires. He told me that his plans had drastically changed when his wife passed away eight months ago. “I’m sorry” was all I could manage to say.
Ray had recently spent three vacation days at home, and that was “not fun”: He ran out of things to do. Therefore, he plans to retire for financial purposes and return to work. I said, “Yeah, you gotta have fun.” “Yep,” he replied. Guess I’ll be seeing more of Ray. Amen.
Jon and I continued to talk downstairs in the lobby about medical school. Ultimately, he’s jumping out of one “fire” into another–medical school, four years of intensive studying.
I told him that medical school is engrossed in the details, but he should always keep the “big picture” in mind. That’s what I showed him about Systems Engineering over our couple of years together. That’s also something I got to pass on from my master’s Thesis Advisor Dr. Tom.
I said, “This might sound stupid, Jon, but have fun while you’re studying your ass off. It’s what you love. Have fun.”
Jon agreed. I’m so proud of that young man!
Perhaps, the genuine paradox of young and old is unconcealed in the Art of Fun. That’s what makes me continue training Aikido after 30 years when parts of my body ache and I spend time stretching and icing after practice.
Years ago, Sensei Dan told me that kids will get good at Aikido, only if it’s fun for them. That’s also true for the adults. I got my life-training through Aikido with Sensei. I did so, because I had fun, and I continue to have fun. After all, why dedicate my life to something if I’m not having fun? Right?
For young and old, having fun is never overrated. In fact, it’s what we all live for. Just saying.
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