The View from Faraway Farm: A gift of persistence


I'm not one to give up easily. It is a characteristic that offers the path to frustration, failure, and disappointment. At the same time, it can be a path to enlightenment, accomplishment, and more often than not, success. I have a tendency to take things to extremes in my boneheaded determination to overcome. It has been that kind of a life. If I haven't found some way to make things hard on my own, something usually comes up that does it for me. Some folks just don't know how to go about the art of living life easily, and I'm one of them. This isn't a complaint, it is simply a statement of how things are. If most things weren't difficult I probably wouldn't know how to cope.

My school years were spent looking out the window, not listening, not focusing, and getting labeled a problem child. I just couldn't seem to go about the process of learning like everyone else. I had to blaze my own trail, doing things in an unconventional way. It was a struggle. I figured out that if I came at a particular challenge from an odd angle I could get to the end game. Learning to do things in a conventional progression somehow did not work in my case, and it was beyond frustrating. That's how I became accustomed to taking the path of greatest resistance, and how I began to develop a tolerance for frustration. This required me to learn patience. After a while, I learned that being patient and persistent would eventually get me to some form of accomplishment. It just never came easily.

I remember taking one of those aptitude tests in high school. I was rather surprised by the results. It concluded that I needed to pursue the arts. Huh? No one in my family seemed to have any interest in the arts. I did tend to doodle a lot, usually drawing cars and goofy faces, but nothing you would mistake for art. Many years went by until I developed an interest in graphic design. I didn't know where it came from, it simply showed up one day in my late 30s. Over time, it developed into an obsession.

Parts of my job required working with various printers on occasion. Suddenly I was getting into it. I found myself asking printers all sorts of questions about design and layout. A couple of the printers that I worked with were kind enough to spend some time showing me how they did their jobs. Where did that come from? I didn't want to get into the printing business, I just wanted to make the things that printers printed. What a backward way of pursuing a discipline, yet I couldn't get enough. Eventually, I bought a drafting table and a wax machine. Suddenly I was pasting things up in my spare time, making lots of mistakes.

Part of a work assignment was to provide a hearing-impaired individual with an amplified telephone. I contacted the telephone company, and they assigned a person to the task. Eventually, I met my liaison, who happened to be a severely hearing impaired young woman who was very adept at reading lips. We communicated quite well, and in the course of obtaining the amplified phone I learned that the phone company person had studied graphic design. She told me that she hated every minute spent doing that job. She was frustrated by it, did not enjoy it, and ultimately left it to become a telephone company liaison for the hearing impaired, a job that fits her perfectly.

Months later, long after forgetting all about the conversation I'd had with the phone company lady, a UPS van delivered a big, heavy box of books to my door. Upon opening it, I found a note from the phone company lady explaining that she was housecleaning and came across her old graphic design course textbooks. I was speechless. What an incredible gift! Receiving those textbooks kicked my pursuit of graphic design into overdrive. I took courses, learned volumes and began taking on projects. After years of consistently chasing this interest, I finally felt proficient enough to incorporate graphic design into my work, and it has been very rewarding. Long after reaching that goal, I met my biological father, a man with a masters degree in fine art. I guess that aptitude test was a true portent of my future. I will be forever grateful for the textbook gift, and for good old-fashioned persistence.

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.


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