In his autobiography, The Persecutor, Sergei Kourdakov shares many experiences that can be considered turning points in his life. One is when he finished schooling with the highest marks in his class, and another is when he joined the KGB. Some were more important than others, but turning points nonetheless. A turning point is, as described by the New Oxford American Dictionary, “a time at which a decisive change in a situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results.” Reading his autobiography has helped me to examine some of my life and realize I’ve already had several events that have influenced who I am now or changed the expected course of my life. I want to share with you one recent turning point of mine.
I just finished reading the book, “A Bus of My Own” an autobiography written by long-time PBS news-anchor, James “Jim” Lehrer. Now, I just wanted to share my favorite story from this book with you.
My favorite story in this book is in the very last chapter, when he finally fulfills his one, lifelong goal of buying a bus, specifically a Flxible Clipper. However, you must know first why it was so important for Mr. Lehrer to have a bus. Jim Lehrer grew up around buses and learned to love them at an early age because his father was the manager of a bus station. Later in life, during the 70’s and 80’s, collecting bus memorabilia was somewhat of an obsession for him. Jim collected things like route signs, bus company signs and even toys, but, the one thing he didn’t have, was an actual bus!
In the final chapter where he meets his goal of owning a bus, he claims having heard “the voice of the Ghost of Buses Past” and it tells him it is time to buy a bus. So, not having to be told twice to buy a bus, he searches and searches, looking for any clues that might lead him to a bus. Then, a nice man offers Lehrer a 1938 Flxible Clipper and, of course, he says yes to the offer and drives home that day with the ultimate bus memorabilia collector’s item: a bus.
I like this final story because throughout Jim Lehrer’s autobiography, he keeps reiterating into his story that owning a bus is his goal. Regardless of what his situation was in any part of the story, you know that buses are far from the front of his mind. So, when you finally read how his lifelong goal became a reality and what previous events had to happen to make it possible to get a bus, the entire story comes together at the end. When I write my own autobiography, whether I publish it or not, I believe that having an end goal and meeting it at the end of a story is what really brings an autobiography together.
In my English Course for the Ron Paul Curriculum, I was asked to read the book: A Bus of My Own by James Lehrer. James Lehrer, more casually known as Jim Lehrer, was a news reporter and fictional writer during the 1950’s. He retired in 2011 as a news-anchor for the PBS NewsHour.
There was one part, however, where Mr. Lehrer goes through a heart-attack. The part that I found interesting was not the heart-attack itself, but that the heart-attack literally changed his life.
Mr. Lehrer survived the heart-attack and didn’t suffer any permanent physical or mental damage. His lifestyle had to change though, and he knew it.
Lehrer decided to change his current diet, which he described as that “of a pimply faced fifteen year-old.” He didn’t like the new diet at first, but it was loads healthier for him. He admitted that he was a big smoker for quite a while and that his smoking was probably what caused the attack. He also said though that because of the attack, he no longer felt the desire or need to smoke. Previous times, he had tried to quit but it never stuck. It always came back. Now, the desire to smoke was simply gone.
When he got back to work he made sure that he made time to take regular naps between airing times and other work. He found that he had more time to write fiction. He only had one other novel already published previously and had not had published anything after that.
The heart attack brought about a sudden urge for Mr. Lehrer to change his lifestyle and become better. It was a good heart attack! Those are probably two words you never thought you would hear put together: ‘good’ and ‘heart-attack!’
So, although Mr. Lehrer was able to turn his life around and start doing things he enjoyed, not many people are able to go through a heart-attack and survive. What I feel I can take from this is that, I don’t have time to not do things that make me happy. To surround myself with friends and family and to make life something worth living. I guess it takes a near-death experience to be able to appreciate life.
In this English course, I am preparing and learning how to create and write an autobiography. For this first assignment, I am going to share three stories that I would use in my autobiography.
Story 1: My Jeep
When I was between the ages of three and five, my family lived in Okinawa, Japan. While living there, my dad had convinced me that Jeeps were the coolest thing ever! We owned one while living there and my dad also had an old 1954 Willy’s Jeep back in the States.
We would drive around in our cul-de-sac over and over. So, because I loved riding in the Jeep so much, my parents decided to get me my own electric battery, drive-around Jeep. The day I got it, my dad asked me if I wanted to go take a ride in the Jeep and I, of course, said “yes!” So we walked outside. When I saw the toy Jeep, I looked at it for a moment, then continued to walk towards our real Jeep complaining, “No, not that Jeep!”
Eventually, I did come to love my very own Jeep.
Story 2: Lost in Korea
While living in Korea, I had to catch a city bus from the Air Force Base to my family’s apartment. So, for two days in a row, my dad helped me practice and know which bus to get on and where to get off and each time we got off safe and sound. However, the next day, my dad couldn’t come with me and so when I hopped on to the bus, which was a little more crowded than normal, I was a little nervous. Normally, on my bus there are just a couple old Korean grandmas. I didn’t think much of it until we took a wrong turn to the right instead of the left!
A little confused and lost, I rode all the way to the end of the buses’ route at a college where it turned around and started going back the other direction. I was already so lost and couldn’t call my mom because I didn’t have a phone! I asked the bus driver if he was going to my stop and he said no. I got off at the next stop and decided to wait for another bus. I stood waiting, just a foreign kid who had no idea where he was, for fifteen minutes with no bus coming. I decided to take a risk and flag down a taxi. I would not have done this had my dad not given me some money the night before. I had about $5 in Korean money.
When I got in the taxi, I was still a little confused and scared and I told the driver to take me to my bus stop. My bus stop?! I don’t know why I didn’t tell the man to take me to my apartment. While we were driving, I was carefully watching the fare counter and making sure that I didn’t go over what I had. When we pulled up to my stop, I fished out the one bill I had, and the counter ticked over to 5,000 won! It was a good thing I had asked him, unthinkingly, to take me to my bus stop. If I had asked him to take me to my apartment, it would have been another half mile and not enough money! That was a close one! When I got out, I started to run and didn’t stop until I had gotten to my door! My mom was pretty worried!
I didn’t have any problems after that because I figured out what had tricked me that day. Just a little reversible red and blue sign with different destinations on it. My dad and I had just coincidentally gotten on the right bus those first two practice times. The blue side takes me to my stop, and the red sign takes me the college where I got lost.
Really wish I had known that before I got myself lost.
Although, it makes for a great story.
Story 3: Aunt Sharon
In late summer of 2016, my family went up for a visit to my dad’s family’s cabin in Colorado. While we were there, I got to meet my great-great Aunt Sharon for the very first time. I didn’t even know I had an Aunt Sharon! She was so nice and sweet, and I was touched that she wanted to get to know me. She asked me questions and I was able to have a nice conversation with her. She was only there for a day but it felt really good to get to know her.
A couple of months later my family received an email that Aunt Sharon had just passed away from a form cancer. I couldn’t believe it. When we saw her, she looked healthy and alive. She didn’t seem sad or depressed like someone who knew that they only had a few months left to live. Now I know why she didn’t tell us. She was probably worried telling us would dampen our day at the cabin. She obviously didn’t to wish to put that burden on us. She was a great example of how to be strong and unwavering in faith and spirit, even when she knew that this was likely the first and last time to meet me. The amazing thing was that she made it feel that we would see her again next year and even invited us to come visit her sometime in Austin, Texas. I barely got to know my Aunt Sharon for a couple hours, and that was enough to make me cry when I heard of her passing.
RPC Student and Soon-to-be auto-biographer