A Perfect Square Peg, in Search Of A Perfect Square Hole

Paper written for 7/24/15 Writing Group.  Topic: Perfection

Evidence would say that for my entire life I have been the consummate near-perfect student – be that my high school experiences, my undergraduate and graduate studies in engineering at the University of Cincinnati, my studies at St. Mary’s Catholic Seminary, my studies at massage school, the build up of my extensive library, my multifaceted relational life through books and courses and several very significant relationships, or my studies in Pathwork, including Pathwork teacher training.

That “Consummate Student” would be the “Perfect Square Peg” scenario of my life story. And I have loved, and continue to love, the role of student, always eager to learn and be inspired by new ideas, concepts, and experiences – realizing that I am an ever-curious researcher, scientist, and philosopher at heart.

Then I map my Perfect Square Peg student-status into my real life story of living.  This “life living” map includes many facets: my 29-year career in business, my long 50+ year church history, my relational life on many fronts and with several partners, and my other many adventures of trying to find my place in the world’s culture and in the Cosmos – the latter including my spiritual identity. In other words, my life living story was forever looking for the Perfect Square Hole LIFE that would fit my Perfect Square Peg STUDENT identity.

The adventure has been exhausting in some ways, so passionate my energy.  I began my 29-year engineering career at SDRC as, of course, an engineer – building on my 8 years of undergraduate and graduate-level engineering studies. What happened as I embarked upon my engineering career? Yikes! SDRC management quickly discovered that “Gary, the top engineering student” was not even an average engineer. This was my first “Perfect Round Hole” experience – my “Perfect Square Peg” engineering student side just would not fit into the “Perfect Round Hole” of real life in the engineering profession. I was quickly moved out of engineering responsibilities and into administrative responsibilities. Supporting administrative duties seemed to be my niche for my early years at SDRC. Eight years of engineering education wasted? Not really. It landed me in a job that worked – business administration would be my Perfect Square Hole career fit.

But being a “Perfect Square Peg” in the “Perfect Square Hole” administrative support functions eventually led to my being chosen for management functions. First there was management over administrative staff, then management over engineering and computer staffs, and then in the fourteenth year of my career at SDRC, at the age of 40, into the role of Chief Executive Officer of this rapidly growing $25M corporation.  I was in this top executive role for nearly four years as the annual revenue grew from $25M to $50M.

But, again, while I had been a great administrative support person (a “Perfect Square Peg” in a “Perfect Square Hole”) earlier in my career, after three years the Board realized (and I certainly agreed) that as an executive who could now take us public on the stock market, I was again, revenue growth notwithstanding, well below average for what was now needed – I became a Square Peg but now in a Round Hole as an executive of a corporation entering the financial world of Wallstreet.

So, as with engineering functions, I was asked to step down as CEO. However, I stayed on at SDRC another decade, playing various planning and sales support roles – back into my Square Hole comfort zones.

From my youth I always had interests in cosmology and spirituality it seems. So before retiring from SDRC at 54, I took thirty or so hours of graduate study in the St. Mary Catholic Seminary’s Lay Pastoral Ministry Program. Here I ate up courses like, The Spirituality and Psychology of Midlife, or Walking with the Mystics, or Experiencing God, and was, of course, once again comfortable as a “very good student.” But after that student work I was asked to do a living practicum, and this practicum turned out to be serving as a hospital chaplain intern for nine months at Christ Hospital, a leading hospital in Cincinnati.

And once again, being a good seminary student was not the same as being a good, or even average, living chaplain intern. Walking the hospital floors with the nursing staff and speaking of matters spiritual with patients who would be in the hospital but a few days, I would feel anxious and lost, and in no way helpful. I left the hospital role, feeling again like it was no fit for my Perfect Square Peg student performance at the seminary.

I went from hospital chaplain intern to massage school student, and of course once again I was a great student, especially in the anatomy side of the course. But then there was graduation, and what was I going to do as an actual living massage therapist?  Another, “Yikes.” By that time I had met Pat, and together we established the Stillpoint Center for Therapeutic Massage. We recruited other massage therapists, but the business never really thrived, and while I was able to build my resume with more and more credentials through a wide range of extra continuing education courses, I could never turn the extended set of “good student” credentials into building a viable living massage practice. I left Stillpoint, and drifted a bit in other “hobby-type” activities – including taking a program that taught life-coaching skills, and setting up Tourmaline Life Center, none of which really panned out as a place of service or new career.

At age 58 I started my Pathwork spiritual path at Sevenoaks Pathwork Center in Virginia. I once again ate this up, finishing a five-year transformation program followed by three years of teacher and helper (i.e., counselor) training. And once again, I was a great student. But, though trained in these roles, I simply was not cut out to be a real live effective Pathwork teacher or helper. So in the Mid-Atlantic Pathwork organization I did not take up teaching or helpership seriously. But as so often happened before in organizations, after dropping teaching and counseling roles, I got involved in my more comfortable zone of administrative functions.

And once again from administrative support roles I progressed to more of a leadership function – becoming Treasurer, Board Member, and Chair of the Pathwork Education Council for a number of years. Again, none of this leadership activity worked out – and it was painful for me (and the others) for me to be in such a direct leadership role. So a couple of years ago I dropped all administrative and leadership jobs in the Mid-Atlantic Pathwork organization.

Finally, in my early seventies, I realized that I had had enough of trying to push my Perfect Square Pegs as a student of life into several Perfect Round Holes of living life. Where am I now in my “retirement”? I now consider myself a Pathwork monk, happily studying and applying the Pathwork Lectures (especially creating the Devotional Version of the Pathwork Lectures), and enjoying my deep relationship with Pat, with other friends, as well as with family members. If anything, I consider myself a conversationalist on a wide range of topics that interest me: spirituality, cosmology, personal growth, science of consciousness, etc.

So now, in “retirement,” instead of trying to counsel others in one-ON-one counseling sessions I have several one-TO-one peer sharing relationships. Instead of trying to teach anything I instead have peer-groups in which we share what is alive in each of us, beyond the “rights” and “wrongs” of religion, science, or other frameworks. Central to my life is growing in and deepening my relationship with Pat, and my work with the Pathwork Lectures, which I so love. This new ride in “retirement” is full of activity, and it is all effortless effort. I feel fully alive in my being both a student of life and one who is evolving in life – and all that that means to me and to those I love.

And so, as student, can I say I’ve finally found, in retirement, a Square Hole that fits my Square Peg?  Not really. What I see is that I have over my 70+ years been gradually transformed from a Square Peg into a Round Peg, and my Round Peg fits snugly into the Round Hole of Life – my life of Relationships, Love, Wisdom, Truth, and Creativity.  I feel happy and fulfilled, and perhaps from that Now-Round-Peg place I can offer my best service to Life!

Shared in love, Gary