Most parents spend a lot of time discussing choices with their children. There are good choices and bad choices and those choices have consequences. For children, choices are black and white with a clear determination of right and wrong. As the years roll by, choices become more complex. Right and wrong are less clear and the consequences of your choices have larger ripple effects. Despite our best intentions, we don’t always observe and understand all of those ripple effects. Often times, those effects reveal themselves over time in numerous small vignettes rather than dramatic, life changing moments. If you are fortunate enough to have a life changing moment, consider yourself blessed.
My life changing moment came late one Sunday night on a drive to Bethesda, Maryland. It was a familiar drive that had become routine as a result of my career choices. I had chosen an executive career track with a company and the job responsibilities that came along with that track including long hours and frequent business travel. I made that choice because I thought it was in the best interest of my family. The consequences of that choice were apparent, even if I didn’t always see them. For some reason, this drive was different. On this drive, the consequences of my choice not only became apparent but they scared me so much it forced me to re-evaluate everything. In a biblical sense, this was my Saul moment where I was knocked off my horse. The moment was brought on by a thought.. I thought to myself that I looked forward to a time when it wasn’t so hard on my 7 year old son Nicholas for me to leave, where he didn’t give me extra long hugs and well up with tears. It finally hit me.. “What the hell am I thinking??”. I should be thankful that my children love me that much where they don’t ever want me to leave them. If I’m fortunate, they will always feel that way. At that moment, I committed in my mind to create a different situation
When I returned from that business trip, I put Nicholas to bed and told him that I was sorry and that Daddy’s don’t always make the best choices, even though we try. I looked him in the eye, shook his hand and committed to find a new job that required fewer hours and little to no business travel. The twinkle in his eye let me know that I was making the right choice. An absolutely brutal several months of work, travel and job searching ensued but every night I went to bed I thought of that commitment that I made to Nicholas. This past week, I made good on that commitment. I resigned from my previous company to take a new job with a firm that is headquartered 20 minutes from my house. I’ll have to travel a few times a year and will work significantly fewer hours.
Living an experience based lifestyle isn’t always about the experiences themselves. Sometimes it’s about making choices to preserve the time to have the opportunity to create those experiences. I’ve climbed the Great Wall in China, sat in the Sydney Opera House, toured the Taj Mahal in Agra, peered out from the Eiffel Tower, stood on tables at Oktoberfest, kissed the Blarney Stone, sampled fresh tequila in Mexico, zip lined through the rain forests of Costa Rica, swam with stingrays in the Cayman, experienced WWII through Anne Frank’s eyes in Amsterdam, snorkeled in the Bahamas, walked along the St. Lawrence in Montreal, walked around Stonehenge, sipped whiskey in Edinburgh, looked out from the Space Needle, stared at the Sea Lions and Golden Gate Bridge from Pier 39, drove Mulholland Drive through Hollywood Hills, looked up from underneath the Arch in St. Louis, had deep dish in Chitown, threw beads from balconies in the Big Easy, got lost in Central Park, went horseback riding in Yellowstone, gambled in Sin City, sat behind homeplate at Fenway, ate lobster in Maine, felt the mist of Niagra Falls, admired Mount Rushmore, listened to bluegrass in an old Kentucky barn, hiked down the Grand Canyon, sipped mojitos on South Beach, ate Mexican along Riverwalk, drove A1A in Florida and Pacific Coast highway in Cali, searched for pirate treasure in the OBX, honky tonked in Nashville, bumped along the Hana highway in Maui, hiked the red rocks outside Denver and sampled BBQ in KC.
I’ve experienced a tremendous amount in the last 15 years... more than many people experience in a lifetime. What I appreciate the most is not those individual experiences, it’s the resulting wisdom that helps me see that sometimes what we perceive as complex choices are not that complex at all. They really are as simple as the choices we make as children.