Where have those five years gone?

In 2019, I realized my life was rolling toward its expiration date, and I hadn’t gotten as much out of it as I wanted. So on May 15 of that same year, I quit my job as a journalism prof at Ohio University to travel.

For a Black man whose roots run deep in Glenville, traveling seemed more like a pipe dream. Now, I’d never refer to my youth as a struggle. I had most of the joys of a boy’s life: friends, kin, sports and education. I didn’t take advantage of as much of those joys as I should have.

I resolved to do better before I died.

That thought drove me to leave teaching. It didn’t, however, do that alone. One other thing factored into my decision: the passing of a childhood friend.

I heard about Jerome’s death from another friend, who led me to recognize I hadn’t kept in touch with Jerome the last three decades. His twilight years didn’t appear as if they were joyful. He had poor health, mostly centered on a car wreck in the ’80s that should have killed him. Jerome survived, but I wondered aloud if he lived.

It’s easy to second guess how somebody else’s life unfolded, but you’ll do yourself no favor if you ignore your own. After all, yours is the only life you have, even when you share your experiences.

Until Jerome’s death, I had little to share. Sure, I had a fascinating career. I covered sports for 20-plus years and spent a decade in a college classroom. In both, I built wonderful friendships and mentored scores of men and women. I’m hopeful some will remember me in their old age.

I remember them in mine: They’ve made me laugh; they’ve made me smile; they’ve made me think; and they’ve made me a better man.

They’ve given me so much, and I wanted more to give to them. I also wanted more for myself. I wanted to meet different people; I wanted to explore different cultures — here and abroad. I couldn’t do this if I were tied to teaching and the commitments I’d made to it.

Well, I did what many people of a certain age do when they’re bored at work and not strapped for dollars: I walked.

Doing so afforded me freedoms I often took for granted. As long as I managed my finances, I figured I had options galore to explore.

And I have.

I’ve traveled, roving the world with a simple game plan in mind: see, hear, taste and enjoy it.

That became an even bigger objective after I was laid up for a month with covid. Yet as with so many things in my life, I had a good outcome. God spared me, and I think He did because He knew I had more to see, hear, taste and enjoy; He knew I had more people to meet; He knew I wanted to share more with people in my life.

I wish I knew what tomorrow held. I’m no soothsayer, though. All I know is I didn’t intend to trade a wonderful job five years ago for boredom. I needed to wring as much living out of the life He’d given me as I could.

I have.