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Let me begin this new column with a proper introduction; my name is Stevoe and I’m an unreasonable man through and through.
This self-designation is borrowed from George Bernard Shaw and his maxim, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
My earliest memories are anchored by incidents of unreasonableness. At home, in school, and at work, I’ve always actively challenged the way things are in favor of the way that I believe they should be.
My extended four-plus-year academic career at Needham (Massachusetts) High School ended with a guidance councilor laughing at me during my senior-year college/career placement meeting. His advice was for me to forgo any illusions relating to college and to focus on the “exploding and exciting” opportunities in the fast-food sector. So within minutes of finishing my final wood shop class, I took my unreasonableness into the workforce full-time.
Now, more than 37 years and 29 jobs later, my unreasonableness is somewhat cast in a pattern that has brought me to all 50 U.S. states, more than 35 countries, and a seemingly disparate career path.
Here are some of the stops along my way: McDonald’s fry guy, swimming pool cleaner, gas station attendant, computer software company executive, hotel front-desk manager, road manager for The Amazing Kreskin, country music promoter (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, among others), Coca-Cola USA executive, Miller Brewing Co. sports director, pro tennis tournament director, NBA player agent, adjunct professor, pro beach volleyball tournament director, national newspaper columnist, conglomerate agency president.
Also, photographer, marketing agency CEO, municipal planning board chairman, Big Brother & Big Sisters board member, USS JFK Museum Committee president, town council chairman, Maine Red Claws co-owner, talk radio host, U.S. Senate candidate, Boys & Girls Clubs board member, gubernatorial candidate, state Senate candidate, medical laboratory/health-care agency CEO.
I bring up my work history as part of a larger confession: I’m virtually incapable of just going along with things, accepting mediocrity, or pretending that the naked emperor is clothed.
For these reasons I have always felt a slight cognitive dissonance with the personality (state-ality?) of Maine, where our “reasonable” operating system has evolved over many years. Maine may be the most reasonable state in the country, where most people mind their own business while we collectively celebrate nostalgia as our greatest export.
And we love our history to the extent that it’s often weaponized against those “from away.”
Shouldn’t people who make the choice to live and invest in Maine be given at least equal credit/respect to those who were randomly born here? And, to what purpose do true Maine-ah’s derive any value or benefit in disparaging people who move here after birth?
If not for the current and future economic realities that are crushing our state, we could afford, literally and figuratively, to continue driving forward with blinders affixed, directed towards the rear-view mirror while ignoring the bigger, wider, more critical view in front of us.
But, we can’t. We shouldn’t.
My hope with this new column is to write about the unreasonable on a consistent basis. Not angry rants, nor contentious soliloquies. Simply a lens pointed towards the unreasonable, as compared to convention or the comfortable constructs of status quo.
And I have absolutely no interest in engaging in the recreational sport of writer/reader debate. I’ll concede from the onset, you, the readers are supreme in your wisdom and keen insight. My humble goal is less about me being right and more about providing you the reader, with a new perspective to possibly see “right” from a slightly different angle.
Rosa Parks was unreasonable in not giving up her seat. JFK was unreasonable in committing us to moon travel long before Tang and supporting technologies even existed. Ralph Nader was unreasonable in fighting to save lives. And Steve Jobs was unreasonable in changing the world a bit and a byte at a time in computing, movies, music, and communications. All were labeled “unreasonable” and most likely, “from away.”
Maine is a wonderful place. And I hope to honor it and you with honesty, passion, and a collection of insights born from the long trek of my own journey of unreasonableness.
For me, the journey to date has been worth the incidental discomfort. For you as a reader of this column, time will tell. Regardless, let’s go forward in the noble and desperately needed pursuit of progress in the here and now of Maine, one of the most special places on this earth.
Steve Woods is from away, but fully here now, living in Yarmouth, working in Falmouth, traveling the world, and trying his best. His column appears every other week.