No, I’m not going to cook meth in 2014. If you have not seen AMC’s Breaking Bad, let me give you a very brief introduction. Walter White is an under-fulfilled high school chemistry teacher who learns that he has cancer. When he dies, he will leave a wife and two children behind with almost no way to care for themselves.
In an incongruous way, Walter applies his advanced chemistry skills to manufacture a very high-grade methamphetamine product that becomes known as Blue Meth because of its unique color. As Jesse’s character can’t help saying, “It’s the bomb.”
The man has skills, but for some reason that we are not made aware of, he is a high school chemistry teacher while his former business partner and girlfriend, now husband and wife, are multi-billionaires.
Walter is unfulfilled in so many ways. He believes the manufacture of meth is the ticket he needs to provide for his family. He justifies the production of the illegal drug, his constant lies, corruption, and multiple murders by claiming that he’s doing it all for his family.
When the law and his past deeds catch up with him, Walter finds himself, but it’s too late. In his last conversation with his estranged wife, he finally admits what it was all about:
Walter: “Skyler . . . all the things that I did . . . you need to understand. . .”
Skyler: “If I have to hear – one more time – that you did this for the family. . .”
Walter: “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. I was alive.”
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong in doing things for your family and other people. That’s part of life; it’s what we’ve been designed for. Altruism, contrary to Ayn Rand, is a good thing.
When I was in junior high school, my father could not wait for the time when I would be able to play football. I played, and did quite well. He was happy. I enjoyed it.
I continued to play through the 10th grade, but it wasn’t fun anymore. It would be my last year of football. My father was devastated. I was not invited to the Letterman’s Club dinner because I had “quit a sport.” Football in Western Pennsylvania was as close as you could get to religion and not go to church. I had committed a sacrilege.
I hadn’t given up sports all together. I devoted all my efforts to track and field. I wanted to be the first high school shot putter to throw 70 feet. While I did not reach that goal, I did manage to throw far enough to be ranked fifth in the nation in 1968 and break the Pennsylvania state record.
I pursued what I loved doing and became very good at it. I was even able to transfer my knowledge to a young man who won three state championships, was ranked first in the nation in 1972, and ended up throwing more than 70 feet, still the longest throw in Pennsylvania history, a record that has stood for 42 years. He still holds the Junior College record.
My Junior High track coach pulled me aside when he saw me at one of our high school’s football games. I was, of course, a spectator at the beginning of my junior year. Here’s what he said: “You made the right decision.”
Too many of us go through life doing what we do to satisfy the wishes of other people. After the passage of several decades, we ask ourselves, “What have I left behind as a legacy? Why didn’t I pursue my own hopes and dreams instead of following the path that had been trodden by so many before me?”
It’s never too late to pursue what you love to do, to try your hand at new things, and it doesn’t have to be making the purest form of crystal meth. Also, keep all of this in mind in the raising of your children and the influence you might have with your grandchildren.