As I finished the final touches to my “Follow Your Dream” article it struck me how utterly compelling that approach to life influenced and still influences my life. I’d like to share some of that now because I sincerely believe it can be deeply inspirational.
The first thing that needs to happen is for a dream be born within you. For me that took a rather long and troubled path. When I was ten after ten hellish years mom and dad divorced. One year later I divorced them and left home. I lived with a variety of strangers and my only dream was survival. Then one day the seed of a dream creeped into my troubled brain.
First home Oak Park, IL
Typical of most boys at age 13 I had close to zero interest in or appreciation of western poetry. But one day I visited a book store and saw a thin little book with an unusual design and a name I didn’t understand. I picked it up and began reading. Instantly I was enraptured and couldn’t put it down. I read the whole book and then I bought it and two others just like it. I had been captured by Japanese Haiku, an ancient poetry form from Japan. Seed planted.
Ron joins the Marines
About four years later I happened to be walking around in Waukegan, Illinois one very cold day contemplating my future. High school would soon end and with my depressing grade point average of 1.7 my best hope was maybe getting hired as an assistant part time gas station attendant. Then I saw a sign that read: “Join the Marines.” I knew from some old movies that Marines were military guys and they served in Asia during World War Two and the Korean conflict so I thought that maybe they still served in Asia and since my introduction to Asia via Haiku I had the beginnings of a dream, so in I went. Sure enough there were still Marines in Asia and upon the promise that I would indeed be sent to Asia as a United States Marine I joined.
After boot camp and advanced infantry training I headed back to Chicago before continuing on to Camp Pendleton in Southern, California. There was, however, an unanticipated delay. I had caught pneumonia and ended up in the Bethesda Naval Hospital for a few weeks and then I got the shock of my life. After being basically cured I was given a pass to go out and enjoy nearby Washington, DC. Enroute to DC the van stopped at some military place and a guard came out shouting “President Kennedy has been shot!” We all figured that shot doesn’t mean dead and the President would be fine. We were all wrong . By the time we arrived in DC the truth slammed us. There I was a very young brand new United States Marine in our nation’s capital in my uniform on the day our president had been assassinated. Dream shattered. Around midnight I wandered over to the White House and watched as Jackie Kennedy arrived still wearing her blood soaked coat. Somethings you simply never forget.
Welsome to Japan
But life goes on and a couple of weeks later I finally boarded a ship heading for Japan. I will never forget the moments leading up to our arrival in Yokohama. As the ship drew closer every Marine became tense and silent. We were entering a foreign land where the people looked and spoke different from us. Everyone was tense, except for me. I felt a strong inner glow as if I was arriving home after a long and troubled journey. First Haiku and now this, my dream was beginning to take shape.
Star Ferry, Hong Kong
My first year in Asia was nothing short of spectacular. I visited Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines, Taiwan and the Gulf of Tonkin. I was in Tokyo for the 1964 Olympic games. I partied with then super star William Holden in Hong Kong and I was still a teenager. Damn! So when I was ordered back to America I quickly began seeking a way to return. I found a group of Marines forming what we called a rag squadron that would go to Asia so I volunteered to join them and it happened. But this time was far different than my first experience. This time I arrived in Da Nang, Vietnam and was given grenades and bullets and put on another airplane heading to Chu Lai. Dream gone, replaced with pure hell.
A little over a year later I returned home and was quickly discharged from the United States Marine Corps. While I was in Vietnam my mother introduced me to a woman named Janet who began writing to me. She seemed interesting and she was pretty, but when I arrived back home I was in no condition for any kind of a “relationship.” So when I asked dear old mom to please pick me up at the airport I also asked her to PLEASE don’t bring anyone else, I am just not ready yet. So, of course, mom showed up with Janet. Worse, later that night mom basically shoved Janet and I into a bedroom. Now after 13 months in Vietnam what do you think might happen?
The problem here, and it was a big one, is that I had been given zero time to regain some sense of humanity. So yes Janet and I had lots of sex, she eventually became pregnant and we got married. But from day one it was a marriage from hell. Too many years later it ended brutally. In the interim I had managed to become a lawyer but I no longer cared and so after finalizing the divorce I quickly packed up and moved to Southern, California and that is when my true dreams began to slowly reemerge.
It didn’t take long before I found myself doing two things I enjoy, public relations and talk radio. As that was coming together I began once again seeking female companionship but this time drawing upon my previous experiences in Asia I looked to Asia for a companion. Many letters were exchanged and over time I became increasingly drawn to one young lady from the Philippines. Her name was Nenita and she became very alluring to me. So in pursuit of my dream I bought a ticket for Hong Kong where she was working at the time.
The following morning after my arrival I was sitting in the lobby of the Park Hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong when in walked a stunningly beautiful young woman. She had shiny long black hair. She was wearing a double breasted black and white checked top and box pleated black and white checked skirt and her deep brown eyes were riveting.
We spent a week together and I was totally convinced that at least one element of my dream would soon be fulfilled. But on my flight home I had to spend overnight in Japan. I had no doubt about Nenita but I did worry a little about me. So I deliberately took myself to a Japanese girlie bar and was soon joined by a lovely young lady who expressed amorous intentions. She was very pretty but I looked at her and saw Nenita so I said good night and left. Getting closer to that dream.
Our next stop was Honolulu. There I stopped in a shop and bought a postcard. I addressed it to Nenita and wrote: “Would you marry me?, Love Ron.”
Ron and Nenita wed in Hong Kong
By October of 1984 I had returned to Hong Kong and on the 30th day we were wed. A big part of my dream was now fulfilled. It took a couple of months for the paperwork to get done but soon Nenita joined me in Burbank, California where we have lived ever since. Now it was time to expand upon my greater dream and that meant travel.
Since we have been married we have visited Hawaii, San Francisco, Chicago, the Philippines, New York, Miami, London, Morocco, Peru, Canada, Singapore, Mexico and more. Recently Nenita and our two daughters Kimberly and Kari and out granddaughter Somaya took a two week trip through London, Brussels, Koln, Paris and Reims. It was glorious and my larger dream has been fulfilled.
Now as I approach the inevitable I do so with a sense of true deep fulfillment. Our oldest daughter is still facing some struggles but now she is facing them and I am confident she will emerge ultimately happy with her life. Our youngest daughter is days away from receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Southern California and because she is of our blood she is already planning on exploring much more of the world.
The Irwin Family in Paris
So yes it has been a long and often difficult journey but once I discovered my dreams and committed to realizing them it happened. Life has become totally meaningful and filled mostly with great joy and so I say again by all means follow your dreams, even when, no especially when life seems harsh or negative for when you follow your dreams you conquer life rather allowing the dark side to conquer you. Or perhaps as they say at USC, “Fight on”.
For a great read check this out: Books by Ron
Photos: Ron Irwin