Who or what was the most influential thing that brought you to who you are today?
It's hard to rank the many influences that made me who I am today. In fact I don't think there's any one that would have done it by itself. I will say though that my professional life has been my most consistent anchor and source of hope and sense of progress in life. It has sustained me when relationships have failed for various reasons, and even at its low ebbs, it has never put the prospect of starvation or economic collapse on the table (although other factors in my life, such as the cost of experimental treatments for my late wife's illness, have diverted what it has provided -- but even that was something we at least had the option to pursue, even if it was ultimately unsuccessful).
Looking at the promises offered by religion, romance, and such like, I have to say that my professional life has by comparison really delivered. And that's ironic, because I started out disparaging and deemphasizing the value of that, and was confident that my various delusional beliefs were the real trump cards in my life.
My mothers love.
My father's dedication to higher education.
My algebra teacher in high school, Mr. Ramsey (ya dad'gum).
The US Army.
The process of getting a BSCE from UCF.
My girlfriend's suicide 7 years ago.
All the things that didn't kill me that made me stronger.
Finally accepting there is likely not a god.
Interesting question! I’ve got a few candidates but I’ll go with a fella who picked myself and a mate up when we were hitchhiking aged 16. He had a little Morris Minor van with the tools in the back for his trade of cabinet maker.
He took us miles out of his way and listened to my religious views with interest, understanding and a spectacular lack of judgement. He then gently suggested there might be more I could find out and recommended some reading.
When he dropped us off we persuaded him to get a beer in the sun with us. I asked if he was any good with that guitar I’d seen in the back of the van and he said with an alarmingly down to earth manner that yes in fact, he was very good.
So obviously we asked him for a quick demo and he obliged. Well: it was like having a private and impromptu concert from Ralph McTell sitting at upside that pub. It was a beautiful handcrafted instrument produced in Ireland: will never forget it.
He changed my life completely though: he was the first person I’d met who truly understood my religious views but inspiringly didn’t share them. I credit him with starting my long climb out of the pit of religion.