It came to me the other day while swinging out on our back deck: I'm slowly becoming the person I should have been a long time ago.
You see, I'm not crazy about the me I was in my 20s, 30s and into my late 40s. Of course, in all fairness, neither am I facing the challenges from those more demanding periods of life. Believe me when I assure you there are substantial pressures in functioning as the editor of daily papers seven days a week.
During the early 1970s after leaving the University of Central Arkansas with a journalism degree, my sole career goal at age 23 was to hopefully one day prove myself on the biggest stage journalism offered.
And after eight years editing the papers in Newport and Hot Springs, I landed at the Los Angeles Times as a staff reporter. Hooray! Then what I perceived as the fulfillment of a goal soon slapped me upside the head with a wet dose of cold reality. Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better, not by a long shot.
Although I was productive, I also realized what I was practicing was still journalism, only on a far larger stage than back home in Arkansas. And while I did earn considerably more salary than as executive editor in Hot Springs, the difference was consumed in taxes and outrageous living expenses.
Our lifestyle didn't change much, if at all, by working for the nation's second largest paper at the time. Then, I felt like a worker ant in a vast colony of ants swarming endlessly across the highways and throughout the region.
I once tried explaining to my editor at the Times that I didn't feel very needed there. He seemed stunned, responding: "For what we're paying you, you sure as heck should feel needed!"
I realized in that moment that what mattered most inside--the fundamental element that led me into journalism--was making a difference rather than making money, or even the prestige that writing for the Times might have offered.
I felt pretty much the same after my time at the Chicago Sun-Times (then the nation's fifth-largest-circulation paper), although that daily tabloid with a rich tradition of rock 'em sock 'em investigative reporting offered me far greater opportunities to pursue various stories that thankfully did make a difference.
With each subsequent career stop, my perspectives grew, along with my priorities.
Today, that consuming, youthful desire to prove myself to myself (so common in many ambitious youth) has evaporated alongside that hefty ego that drove my wants and needs in the earlier decades. No longer does the universe revolve solely around my interests. I'd say it centers today on the lives around me.
Nowadays, I take virtually everything in stride, from the criticisms I categorize as either valid or emotional to the compliments. It's easier to appreciate both with a different perspective.
It's also much easier from this loftier position on the mountainside of my limited existence to recognize the profound changes in my attitudes and goals.
I believe the biggest lesson underlying these reforms in my life stems from the fact of life that reminds us just how important it is to use our individual consciousness to help make positive differences as we seek our place in the pecking order of existence.
The passage of decades also has made me more aware of (and committed to seeking) the creator of all that transpires in this strange and troubled world which, while beyond magnificent on one hand, brings untold suffering and regret to so many. I suppose one might say ol' Mikey finally grew up.
Frightening top 10
The truth lies before our eyes as we circulate within our communities. The personal finance website WalletHub holds a mirror of sorts as a reminder that carrying around extra weight is an invitation to poor health and diabetes.
Being a Type II diabetic myself, I understand all too well the value in shedding pounds to keep this life-threatening scourge under control. It took dropping 77 pounds several years ago to bring mine under control and maintain it with the help of oral meds.
With November being National Diabetes Awareness Month, WalletHub issued its latest report, "2020's Most Overweight and Obese States in America." As I'm sure you've by now surmised, the results where we're concerned were troublesome at best.
Among all the states, with one being the "fattest" and a score of 25 considered "average," we finished third in the number of obese adults and eighth for obese children.
The study determined that Arkansas ranks fifth in the number of physically inactive adults and those with diabetes, fourth in those with high cholesterol and hypertension, sixth in those consuming less than a single serving of fruits and vegetables daily, and 21st in the obesity-related death rate.
I've never been one to lecture others on their choices and lifestyles. But as one with the standing to comment, it's certainly been a much better life in many ways to have made the hard choice to eliminate seconds at meals and adopt exercise into my day than face the likely alternative.
SRT curing cancers
It's been almost a year since I last told you about the portable SRT-100 superficial radiation machine that erases basal cells and squamous cells in a matter of a dozen or so completely painless treatments.
I've been promoting this revolutionary alternative to Mohs surgery ever since being successfully treated myself by a dermatologist 10 years ago while in Santa Fe.
My push has only been to make potential skin cancer patients (except for metastatic melanoma) aware of this much less painful and disruptive treatment, which only requires laying still for about 45 seconds three times weekly for about six weeks.
The basal cell on the tip of my nose was gone within a month after SRT treatment.
Unfortunately, this form of treatment remains relatively rare as dermatologists, for the most part, haven't acquired an SRT-100, preferring the traditional surgical removal of skin cancers.
However, the Branson Dermatology Clinic just 30 minutes up the highway from Harrison, has had great success with its SRT after treating patients with it for more than a year now.
"We've had great success," said radiation therapist Michelle Nelson at the clinic. "Virtually everyone who has visited for treatment wound up with their cancers destroyed."
She said she wishes other physicians would consider this latest technology that boasts an incredible cure rate. One patient she sees travels more than 200 miles round-trip from northwest Arkansas for treatments because he can't find a doctor in his area who offers an SRT-100.
While I don't have a dog in the skin-cancer hunt, I do like to pass along potentially beneficial information to others who--through this technology--may well be able to spare themselves anxiety and fear over surgery. Believe me, it was well worth doing due diligence when my alternative to repair the ol' schnoz was surgery.
No matter how educated, talented rich or "cool" you are, the way you treat others ultimately says it all about who and what you are. One's integrity is everything. Worry doesn't take away tomorrow's problems, but it often destroys today's peace. And always remember that fear doesn't stop death. It inhibits--and often halts--the process of living.
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly how you want them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]