Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tom Clancy And Me

Tom Clancy

I am stunned to hear that the novelist Tom Clancy has died at age 66. I never met him, but he and his work has been present at some of the key moments of my life.

I was first introduced to popular, adult novels when my father all but forced me to read his favorite book, The Hunt For Red October. I loved it as well. Back then, I was a young teen and had not really graduated from reading whatever the teen novels of the time were, long before the current crop of wizards and vampires became all the rage.

When I graduated from the University of Delaware in 1994, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Clancy would be our commencement speaker. I remember it was somewhat controversial because the school had to pay him, unlike the school officials and local politicians who normally spoke at graduation (what ever happened to that Joe Biden guy?)

More importantly, I vividly remember what he said that day. He spoke of his dreams of becoming a writer that got side tracked by marriage, family, and everyday concerns. He told us of how, even as an insurance broker, he kept pursuing his dream. At age 37, he published his first novel, The Hunt For Red October, and the rest is history.

When I heard him speak, I had no idea how I would make a living after college.I eventually wound up working in computers just as it became the industry to be in. Later, I had the dream of being a commercial pilot. I even earned my commercial pilot's license, just as that industry became the place not to be.

After working as an employee of one company or another for nearly two decades, my dream was to be my own boss and set my own schedule. I haven't written a book yet, let alone sold millions of novels, but I too have achieved my dream. Like Clancy, I started writing professionally at around age 37, when I also had a marriage, children, and plenty of everyday concerns.

I never cared much for Clancy's politics, nor did I think that most of his later novels were as good as his first few (or the movies for that matter). But the lesson that Tom Clancy taught me on that beautiful May day in Delaware is one that I will pass on to my children.

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