I've been thinking about my past a lot lately. I heard my graduate professor from U of I is retiring and I'm starting to feel my age. It's caused me to reflect a lot on the happenings of the past. I was in contact with my old friend, Ian Bally to let him know. Ian and I have texted back and forth over the last few days. It's been really good to hear from him. I posted the video above as I've been listening to the group Granddaddy a lot in the studio lately. They have a new piano version of one of the albums that was released around the time that Ian and I were in school. Ian introduced me to them as well a lot of other awesome music. We would frequently stop at the record store on Green St. on our way back to the studio after having lunch. Along with my wife, I owe so much to Ian for making it possible for me to be where I am.
It's interesting to look at the past and notice things that you just missed at the time, yet the memory is really fresh after all these years. I met Ian for the first time in the Art & Design building in Champaign. We were both new to the Metals MFA program, but he had finished an Industrial Design undergraduate degree at the U of Illinois earlier, so he knew his way around and was comfortable with the place. There were many times that I felt out of place and out of my element and that first day meeting him was one of those days... until I met him. There was just something about that first encounter that made me feel comfortable and I knew I could trust him and that I would always be able to depend on him for anything.
I have always been introverted. This world did not evolve, or at least the professional world, did not evolve to allow people like myself to "succeed" easily. I've always wondered if there was something wrong with me due to not quite fitting into the norms of this world. It was readily apparent to me from about kindergarten/first grade and all the way up to graduate school. I never understood cruelty as a child and the world felt like an exponentially meaner place as I grew older and encountered people I didn't understand. I have a lot of odd habits (to say the least) and I always wondered why people responded to me the way they did. I felt like I had to work really hard to "fit in" and it was exhausting. I wasn't sure it was worth it. Honestly at the time I thought I'd rather be alone or live with others in silence than to talk; just to fill the silence. Over the years, I've only required a few people in my life at one time, and those people are my "rocks". I always knew that I'd rather have a couple good friends than 1,000 superficial friendships. The professional world doesn't work that way...
The three years of graduate school being in close proximity to others and being forced to interact and socialize with people and to be conditioned to what it means to be a "professional in a field of study" was traumatizing on many different levels. To say that I had trouble adapting would be an understatement. I wasn't sure a kid from a small farming community was meant to be in the position I was in. But somehow Ian being there, and going through the experience with together made it possible for me to cope. I leaned on him through those three years and we toughed it out together. It was like God placed him there as a support for me.
It's funny how I remember that first time meeting so clearly. It was a mundane meeting but it told my inner being that everything was going to be o.k. I'm grateful for the people in this world that have guided and influenced me in a positive manner. Be on the look-out everyday as you don't know who might shape your next path. Oh, and think of those that you owe gratitude to. Thanks, God, for putting the people we need most in our lives during the difficult times and for knowing exactly what we need at just the right time.