Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, “Whether you think that you can or that you can’t, you are usually right.”
Life is like that – if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish great things. If you doubt what you are trying to do, you are in for a tough ride or worse, you won’t get off the couch and get going.
Thirty years ago on Aug. 13, 1992, I loaded a rented Budget truck and my Chevrolet S-10 with most of my belongings and left my boyhood home of Tulsa headed for new pasture.
I wasn’t unhappy in Tulsa, I was ready for a change.
It all started in the early winter of 1983 while working in the circulation department for Newspaper Printing Corporation (NPC) in Tulsa. NPC oversaw the printing and distribution of what was then two Tulsa papers, the World and the Tribune.
I was an assistant district manager and my job was to make sure the daily newspapers were delivered to the customers on time.
I met John, who had moved to Oklahoma in April 1982 from Riverside, Calif. Ironically, John was born in Iowa and lived in Burlington before moving to California with his mom and family at age 3.
We had a bet. The goal was to see how much weight we could lose in a two-month timespan. The bet started on March 1 and went through April 30 of that year.
The winner would receive $50.
I won with a weight loss of 39 pounds to John’s 26 pounds. I got into short-distance running (2-6 miles daily), quit drinking Pepsi and changed a lot of my eating habits.
At the time, John didn’t have an extra $50, so a couple months later, he gave me his old camera, a Konica FP-1. The camera paid far greater dividends and opened more doors than $50 could have ever done.
I had an Argus twin lens reflex camera that I was given in junior high school by the neighbor family to the south and I used it a lot through the years, but never took the art of photography too serious. This new camera was like a piece of gold.
I started with some adult education photography courses through Tulsa Community College and that led me to enroll in Rogers State College (now University) in Claremore, Okla.
I started part-time at RSC in August 1987 with a black and white class at the recommendation of the teacher. I then ventured into color photography. This was back in the day when film was king. I learned a lot about photography working in the darkroom developing film and making prints. That led to me taking more classes such as English, humanities, history, speech and science.
While at RSC, where I earned an AAS Degree in Graphics Technology in 1991, I begin to believe in myself. Growing up, I was shy and didn’t always see myself in the best light.
That was changing.
It helped that I was attending a God-centered church where I was learning that all things are possible and that my past wasn’t my future.
I learned early on in life that struggles and challenges were there to propel you into a better life. And so was the paddle of love my mom shared with my backside many times through the years. I’m thankful for every spanking I got.
Anyway, while at RSC, I decided I wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree. That led to me applying and being accepted to the University of Missouri-Columbia.
I never took an ACT test, but somehow got into the school. I enrolled in the Agricultural Journalism program.
It took me three tries to get into the journalism school. I worked at night as a custodian and went to school during the day. I got involved in a church and made friends. I listened to Bible teaching tapes while sweeping floors and cleaning toilets. I associated with people who believed in me and prayed for me. And most importantly, I believed in myself.
I asked for help and I took advantage of it. Thinking back, I remember the many struggles I had with algebra. At one point, I was getting tutoring from a friend at church twice a week and I was spending Sunday afternoons attending math tutoring at the university. I passed.
When I failed, and I did many times, I got up and kept walking.
After graduating from MU in 1997 at the age of 38, I returned to Tulsa briefly before making the move to North English, Iowa on Dec. 27, 1997.
Looking back on all of this, I’ll never forget Aug. 13, 1992. My brother, Tom, drove the rental van and I drove my pickup on that hot August early evening. We stopped for pizza and then hit the turnpike to Missouri.
After spending the night in Springfield, Mo., we rolled north and east and arrived in my new home, Ashland, Mo., 15 miles south of Columbia, in the late afternoon of Aug. 14, 1992.
What I great ride these past 30 years have given me.
I met my wife at the Iowa State Fair, published two Iowa photo books, co-directed a writing workshop for 10-years, bought a house. I believe I have made a difference through my pen and camera in the lives of many.
And there is so much more to come!
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.