As Good As It Gets? Mortal Life, Even At Its Best, is Far from Perfect – But No Matter How Bad It Seems, It Could Always Be Worse
By Ken K. Gourdin
I posted the following on Dan Peterson’s blog at Patheos in response to the question (essentially), “What if this is as good as it gets?” See Dan’s blog here (last accessed today): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2014/06/even-at-its-best-never-quite-perfection.html Even at its best, often, life serves up a lot of problems for us to deal with, everything from minor annoyances (such as being at The Happiest Place on Earth, but when it is unseasonably, unusually bitter cold) to earth-shattering crises. It’s a cliché, but there’s that old saying about the man who felt bad he had no shoes—until he saw a man who had no feet. As the title of the address given at the April 2014 General Conference by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reminds us, we should be “grateful in any circumstances” (see the following address, last accessed today): https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/grateful-in-any-circumstances?lang=eng.
There are a lot of less-than-ideal circumstances in my life. I stuck it out in school to earn a post-bachelor’s, professional degree even though I pretty regularly felt like quitting. (The thing was, I didn’t know what I would do instead: mostly, what I’d done up to that point in my working life is to answer phones for somewhere between $7-10 an hour. I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life doing that, but it seemed like the only alternative to continuing my schooling: in fact, when I first enrolled, I lost my nerve and I dropped out before getting any credit … and ended up taking a job answering phones for $9 an hour—again!)
So I went back. I still felt like quitting in the middle of every semester until, perhaps, my final year: everybody there was smarter than I was, they “got it” more easily than I did, they could compete in the dog-eat-dog competition for jobs when I had no idea how I was going to do that, and so on. I felt like I knew what [Latter-day Saint pioneer] Francis Webster was talking about when he spoke of crossing the plains with a handcart, picking a spot in the distance, and telling himself he could go only that far and no further, only to reach the spot and look behind him, wondering who was pushing his handcart, but seeing no one: as I said, my “spot in the distance” usually was the end of the semester. But somehow, I always found a “second wind.”
I graduated, then I was denied licensure in my “would-be chosen profession” because of a psychiatric history and (at the risk of oversimplifying) problems stemming therefrom. That’s not “an easy bell to unring.” In this particular field, once someone has been tarred with that brush, it’s hard for one to rehabilitate his image. Now, I can either list my degree on my resume with no accompanying license, and people won’t hire me for one of two reasons: (1) they wonder why I’m not licensed; or (2) they wonder why I want to work there when I have the degree I listed; or, I can forego listing my degree and not have to worry about confessing my lack of licensure, but that simply leads people to wonder what I was doing with those (in my case) five years of my life.
But could things be worse? Absolutely, they could! I could’ve gone to a different school, out of state, and paid three or four times what I ended up paying for my degree. There are people with far better credentials than mine who can’t find a job in the field. Yes, with respect to my own income, I live at poverty level. But (although, admittedly, I wouldn’t be able to do this without a good deal of help from family), I’ve still been able to pay down (and in one case, to pay off) – albeit modestly – my loans. Try as I might, I don’t regret getting this particular degree (although candidly, I do often wonder if I should regret it). In the end, even though this field, as yet, has been nothing more than an expensive hobby of mine, not very many people can say they successfully met the kind of challenges I faced in getting the degree.