By adolescence, Nate’s life seemed to be off to a rocky start. He was a very quiet boy and he hated school, really hated it. He was shy and made friends very slowly. He was tall and thin, and often teased for this. He loved doing physical things, but had shown himself to be a bust at one team sport after another. He simply didn’t have a competitive bone in his body. That pretty much took care of the social side of school. The academic side was no better. He had some interest in history and social studies because he did care about how the world was doing, but even there he was turned off by the endless names and dates, and couldn’t see much relevance to his own interests. Science and math he just hated, sometimes nodding off in class during these periods. His best areas were art and music, where he did come alive.
Looking for something that would catch his attention, his parents offered him guitar lessons. He was fine with the first few months of instruction, which was all based on learning simple chords and playing songs by ear. When he progressed to note reading, however, his wandering Perceiver side really rebelled. It was too much like school all over again. Eventually he quit his lessons and just played for his own enjoyment. Playing for others embarrassed him, and playing with others seemed somehow too restrictive and confining.
Nate squeaked through high school, just barely graduating, and was promptly drafted and sent to Vietnam. One thing he did gain from his military training was the knowledge that he was very skillful in the use of his own body. Martial arts were a part of his military training and he turned out to be fast and flexible and rather clever in this area. Except for that, he hated war far more than he had ever hated school. He did his best to get through the experience and to be a help to his comrades, but there was no part of him that could justify the killing he saw. Eventually, he was seriously wounded in a protracted battle and sent home for rehabilitation. Shell fragments had severely damaged the muscles in his left thigh, requiring months of physical therapy in a VA hospital.
During that time, he did a lot of thinking about his life. Clearly it was going nowhere. He had come home believing that the war was all wrong, and for a time he participated in anti-war rallies and joined a peace advocacy group. While he believed in the movement, he would never be a deeply political person. Most of the demonstrators seemed to have very passionate ideas about changing the country--ideas that went well beyond ending the war--and he simply did not have the same aggressive passions. As his leg began to regain strength, he enrolled in karate lessons to help strengthen it further. As had been true in the service, he turned out to have considerable talent for this, and went on eventually to become expert at the black belt level.
During this same period, with some GI funding available to him, and nothing but time in front of him, Nate enrolled once again in a guitar course. This time he took it seriously and soon became a skillful music reader. He clearly had talent, and his instructor strongly urged him to get into a rock group that was forming under his supervision. He did so, and found himself making some real friends for the first time since his military service. The group had some success and was soon getting bookings. This might have been a happy ending to Nate’s struggle to find himself, but the more the group was in demand and traveling all over the state, the more Nate was miserable. He had no control over his own time, where they went, or who he roomed with. And he was almost never alone. It just didn’t work.
Back to the drawing board. He began offering lessons himself, in an effort to keep some income going. Somewhat to his surprise, he found he loved it. Many of his clients were teenaged boys and there were always some who were much like the person he had been in high school—left out of the mainstream, very unsure of what the future should look like. He found that he could talk to these young people easily and often opened up about his own experiences. Because karate had been a positive force in his life, he became interested in the possibility of introducing his young pupils to this also. On his own time, he qualified as an instructor, and soon offered perhaps the only guitar and karate academy in the world! Money had never been an important factor for him, so he took only a limited number of pupils, and spent a great deal of time getting to know them. Local schools became aware of his success with many youngsters, and counselors sometimes recommended “sending this boy to Nate.”
Today he is married with two children and finds life more satisfying than he could ever have imagined it would be.
Nate’s story offers a very nice example of understanding your own needs, strengths, and weaknesses, and shaping your life to fit them.
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