Monday, September 14, 2009

Naval Officer Rob Ballister Winner of the 2009 MWSA President’s Award

Rob Ballister is an active-duty Naval officer currently serving in Washington DC. He is the recipient of the 2007 Military Writers Society of America ( Gold Medal for Humor for his book God Does Have a Sense of Humor and the winner of the 2009 Military Writers Society of America President’s Award for service to the society. Here’s Rob sharing some of his humorous insights:

Recently, I came to a pair of conclusions. First, I was due for a mid-life crisis. Second, I was not rich. Because I didn’t have the money for a corvette, a mistress, or a sailboat, I needed another outlet for my attempt at feeling both younger and more in control of my life.

Therefore, I decided on the spot to pursue a week-long dream of mine and learn to play the drums. After all, if some high-school dropout with long hair can do it, a Naval Academy grad with more degrees than talent should have no problem.

The effects of my decision have been immediate and mixed. On the down side, my neighbors hate me, my wife won’t talk to me, and my dog cowers under our bed most of the day. On the bright side, my in-laws almost never come to visit anymore, so it’s pretty much a wash. But my wife’s divorce threats not withstanding, it has been absolutely worth it.

Okay, I’m not Buddy Rich. When it comes to drums, I’m not even Buddy Hackett. But I love to play. Every chance I get, I go out in my garage, put in my earplugs, grab my sticks, and for the next 30 minutes make some serious noise.

To anyone else, the ensuing cacophony sounds like a train derailing during a thunderstorm, complete with cursing passengers (that’s me when I whack myself in the face; occasionally, a stick gets away from me), but to me, it’s music. And not church music or nursery school music that you learned in school because you had to; I mean put-the-top-down-and-crank-the-radio-so-you-can-FEEL-it music.

I shake and jitter and shudder and flail and feel like I can play forever. Then my hands cramp up and the sticks fly around the room, but until that point I am the greatest drummer since man first covered a log with an animal skin and thumped away.

I have no doubt that had I started this a bit earlier in life, I would be a lot better at it by now. I would also probably be a lot less passionate. When I was younger, I learned something because I felt like I wanted or needed to get better at it for some particular reason, to achieve some goal or success in life. That mentality can take all the fun out of something.

With drumming, it’s not the destination but the journey that provides the enjoyment, and when I’m out there slamming the skins as hard as I can, I don’t care if I never get any better, because I’m happy right where I am. The joy is not in the reward, but in the release, the learning, the creativity, the just plain playing.

So I guess it’s never too late to learn something new. Just grab a set of sticks, or some scuba gear, or a parachute, or knitting needles, or SOMETHING, and enjoy the journey that comes with it.

Be that 55-year-old taking piano lessons, or that 70-year-old learning to ice skate (be careful, please), or the 63-year-old skydiving for the first time (be even MORE careful). When you stop learning, you stop living, and there is no reason to do either for a very long time.

(The Amazon book link is an affiliate link.)

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT and the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION. She is also an Internet business consultant and the co-host of the BlogTalkRadio show

Phyllis' company provides Internet marketing training as well as social media marketing to promote your business more effectively.

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