Back on the farm were early mornings and early risings and out of bed at the count of 20. The beds themselves were nowhere near comfortable nor was it comfortable to sleep in a bunkhouse and accept the habits of other young men.
I suppose the biggest insult was not the squeaking from the bunks when someone rolled or moved around in the night. No, the worst was when the alarm went off. This is when a young man known as the dorm manager would run over to the light switch. He would count out loud in the darkness of the bunkhouse until reaching the number 20. Meanwhile, the lights came on, flickering brightly before the fluorescent bulbs reached full strength.
We had until the count of 20. This meant everyone had to be out of bed with their feet on the floor, bunks had to be made and each dorm member had to be on their way to their first morning job. Otherwise, someone would come along to help with the proper motivation. I never liked this rule. No one did. The sun wasn’t even up yet, but there we were, up and running,
These were the rules we had to follow and should someone not listen or not find the needed motivation to run at full speed, a senior member, which eventually became me, would scream and loudly encourage the dorm member to properly motivate themselves to a faster pace.
This was not military by any means. This was just a therapeutic ranch where kids with different pasts and from different backgrounds went to learn a better life. And like it or not, they would either learn or leave.
Some improved. Some left. And me, well, the outcome for me has been documented up until this day, which means I’m still here (in a sense).
There were rules to everything on the farm. There was the first rule of the morning, which was everyone had to make it to breakfast on time, otherwise, no breakfast. The lesson behind this was to teach the true facts of life, which is that life does not care if we are tired or if we had a good night sleep. Bosses don’t want to hear excuses. Life does not care about our excuses. Get up and get going. Get busy and then get home. This was the lesson.
When the alarm goes off, work calls. If we run late, we have to skip breakfast to make it to work on time. And if we fail to make it to work on time, we run the risk of losing work and losing a way to make a living. The fact remains that there is not always going to be someone around to motivate us in the morning. This is our job on a daily basis.
I suppose throughout the years, the lesson has stuck with me. I have not hit the snooze button once since my first morning on the farm back in October, 1989. I think about all the lessons I’ve learned in my life. When I was young, people would say, “You’ll understand when you’re older.”
I think about the times I saw grown men in the workplace. I watched them. I saw how they brown-bagged their lunch and conserved food to avoid waste. They worked hard but complained very little. They ate their dinner leftovers for lunch the next day and brought a thermos with them. I admired them but yet, I hardly knew why.
Youth is a funny thing. Youth will often lack foresight. Or maybe this was me. Maybe I was just a kid. Maybe I needed to be hit hard or knocked down. Maybe I needed life to happen before I truly understood what life really was.
I never liked being told “You’ll understand when you’re older.”
The Old Man used to tell me this all the time.
And he was right too.
The lessons we learn are time sensitive and age appropriate. Yet still, I swore I knew everything. I thought I knew what life was about. Then again, I never understood that life is relative and until we run through the mill or actually experience life on a firsthand basis, our perspective is skewed.
Maybe I didn’t understand why I had to be out of bed by the count of 20. Maybe I didn’t understand what it meant to have to feed a family or watch my spending habits.
If you were to ask me back then if I saw the lesson in all I was learning, I would have told you, “No way”.
But here I am now, age 48, and I was up this morning before 4:00am. The alarm went off and yes, I was tired. My body is sore. My list for today is long however, the lesson I learned is true. Neither the mortgage company, the credit card companies, the insurance companies nor my boss care if I had a good sleep or not. Either way, the day is still coming. As I see it, it’s best that I get up and meet the day, face to face, because otherwise, life will find a way to motivate me like the dorm leaders would do on the farm.
One day, I’ll open my own farm for kids that need help. I don’t know if I will do the 20 count rule but whatever I do, I hope it’s effective.