The 33rd YearThis is a picture of me along with one of my best friends in high school, Michelle Pontious, and her father Robert, on the day that she and I graduated. I actually discovered this on Michelle's Facebook page. I could not locate the larger version, I think Facebook must have a bug.
I was a much more handsome fellow in those days, I think-though Nicole would probably politely disagree. Today begins my 33rd year breathing independently in this world, by the grace of God. This picture is certainly a reminder that times must and inevitably do change. All three people in this photograph have gone on to do different things with their lives in different parts of the country (although Michelle isn't that far away in North Carolina). I also remember something of what our dreams were that day, and I can say that for me, some of the things I had hoped for have come to pass just the way I would have wanted. I got a college education and eventually married and settled down. Other life events caused great changes in the way I would have done things if left to my own devices. Those of us who are people of faith might call this uncontrollable change of plans Divine Providence, or the Will of God.
A month ago this week when I was in Nashville for the opening of the General Assembly, a great many people stopped me along Charlotte Avenue, or at one of the many receptions I attended, or even in one of the bars I like to frequent when at the Capitol with Frank Niceley and some of the Republican State Representatives that I have had the good fortune in time to become friends with or make their acquaintance. A common refrain in these chance encounters was "hey, aren't you David Oatney-I read your blog every day," or "I really enjoy your work." Some were kind enough to exaggerate the importance of what is done in this space on a daily basis, as compared to the hard work many conservatives are doing in the trenches of politics at the cost of their private life. I was then, and am now, humbled by the sheer number of people who say that they read and respect the thought put into my blog, newspaper column (which, thanks to the collapse of the White Pine Weekly, is on temporary hiatus), and occasional podcast.
Interestingly, if people do admire this work and my writing as much as they say that they do, I can't claim that I would be much of a writer were in not for Mr. Pontious, the gentleman in the right of the picture above. In addition to being Michelle's Dad, as well as a solid moral example for any teenager, Mr. Pontious was also my high school journalism teacher and newspaper adviser. Most of what I came to understand as the basic skills needed for quality writing, especially as an editorialist, I learned from him (though neither he nor I realized this at the time, I am sure).
Another trip around the sun often causes me to reflect on the people who have made an impact on my journey.