Dr. Mike Obsatz, Professor Emeritus at Macalester College
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I will be turning 81 next week. That's 9 squared. I make a joke about it because it doesn't seem real to me. How can I be 81 when I was just 50 about five minutes ago.
Time flies, and it flies faster the older I get. The following week, my youngest daughter turns 40. How can that be? She was a child not long ago, and now she has children of her own.
I frankly did not think I would make it to 81. My sister died at 55. My cousin died at 54. My grandmother lived until 65 or so.
When I think back to my early life, I feel a lot of sadness. That little boy was lonely and trapped. As a victim of violent bullying for years, I often thought I'd be better off dead. Maybe I outlived the gang of boys who tormented and hurt me so badly.
Boyhood was painful. Adolescence was confusing. College and graduate school were draining. Lots of tests, awkward social situations.
You see -- as a young man, I received little guidance and support for navigating the world. I was clueless, and lacked many social skills. It is a miracle that I made it through the teens and twenties.
So much pressure to perform, to prove myself, to "know" about life.
It would have been wonderful to have a mentor during those years who stood by me and helped me process the many challenges I faced. My high school English teacher was some support. But he was llimited in how much he could help me. College advisors were not much help, and therapists were only for the severely mentally disturbed.
Maybe that is why I mentor people now. I have been doing it for thirty or more years. I realize how much I would have benefited if I had somebody who took an interest in me and my life, and maintained a connection with me through those challenging years.
I started teaching college at 25, only 3 years older than many of my students. What did I know about the complexities of life, how to navigate the academic world, how to choose a partner, how to nurture myself?
I am determined to be there for others -- long term, and support them, sharing my wisdom and insights, providing them with guidance, love, and unconditional acceptance.
I have read more than 3000 books, plus articles. I have been a variety of life situations, and finally think I know what really matters.
My spiritual growth, and my living with love and grace, did not come easy. I found spiritual connection, passion, and love through a variety of belief systems and organizations. It was hit and miss.
But I am grateful to have arrived at 81, with good health, a strong spiritual and emotional support network. I have a created a variety of books, films, websites, and articles. I am not done yet.
I continue to follow my bliss, find joy in my family and friends, and keep up with medical appointments and check-ups. But mostly, I dedicate my life to being what I needed most - a guiding light in a sometimes dark and confusing world.