I was born in Brighton, Colorado 30 plus years ago. In '85 shortly after my sister was born, we moved to a smaller town of Rawson, Ohio. In the next 12 years, I would live in Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, and eventually back in Colorado. Throughout those times, I was exposed and grew-up in a variety of cultural, racial, religious and economic environments.
It was not an ideal situation for a kid trying to make friends, but in retrospect, it was a great experience and learning tool. It has allowed me to be able to adapt to many situations and be able to identify with most people, at least to some degree. In terms of my life plan, there were a few defining moments I remember vividly that lead to this grand life plan that I hatched out somewhere between middle and high school.
One night pulling up to the gated entry to the small community in Punta Bandera, Mexico probably in 1986, I remember my dad saying that I should be a Finance Major in Accounting when I go to college and go on to get a Master's Degree. My affinity for management replaced finance but it was that point where I 'decided' that I wanted to go to college. Flash forward to 8th grade, filling out career choice surveys and tests. Computer Engineer, paying $80,000 a year? Sounds good to me! Still focused on going to college, over the next couple years I started thinking about my plan.
Well I'll start by going to college at the University of Colorado, Boulder, the flagship school in my home state. When I"m done, I want to pour myself into work, save money, buy a house and a boat (not sure where the boat came from) and live the bachelor life until I was about 30, then get married, have kids and live happily ever after. I was about 15 or so when this plan was put together.
...it's a nice March spring day in Denver, Colorado in 2011, a year ago; I turned 30 just 6 months ago. I'm sitting the couch in my loft, working from home on my company provided laptop. After graduating from the University of Colorado, Denver (didn't get into Boulder and had no plan B so I settled for Denver), in 2004, I got an entry level position at a direct marketing plan. I wasn't making great money, but was able to get a loan and purchase a loft close to downtown Denver right before the economy and housing market collapsed. I did take the GMAT test for graduate school twice but found that it doesn't matter how many times you take it, if you don't study, you won't pass. DUH. I gave up on that because I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it and obviously I didn't want it that bad.
I lost my job a week after I closed on my house. I can't say I was financially prepared but I pushed through. Over the next 4 years, I would do some consulting and take a 'temporary' job at a software company, moving my way up to manage 4 teams. During that time worked my ass off, as much as you can working on a computer, and almost doubling my salary during the recession.
One spring March day, I wasn't feeling the office environment, so I took my 5 minute drive home and started on this project between conference calls. I sat back, looking around and realized that I didn't want to do this job anymore, and that my 15 year plan didn't lead to the happiness I expected. Other than money, I couldn't think of any valid reason that I had to do this job if I didn't want to. With the help of a friend, I hatched out my exit plan. The next day I was nervous and anxious; after my boss arrived, it took about 30 minutes before I could get her at the right time. I'm a big fan of poker and I was about to pull of one of the biggest bluffs of my life.
We sat in a small conference room and I told her I was leaving the company...in a week...or I would be willing to stay for transition if they were to offer me a severance package. My savings wouldn't cover half of my bills for the next month if she balked but I went for it and they accepted. WOW! There is no freedom like going all in and walking away a winner. I now had two months and some cash on the way to figure out what was next.
It was during this time when my emotions started to surface. I found myself waking up everyday, knowing I was on the verge of something amazing. I knew whatever came next was totally in my control and that I was open enough to take it all in. I would get chills and feel tears periodically everyday thinking about it.
If you are late to the blog, you can pick up the fun here, if you've been along on this ride, you know that what came next was definitely AMAZING!
Flash forward over a year later...
Three weeks ago, I was at the Colorado Rockies baseball game at Coors Field, laying on the playing field, watching fireworks with some close friends and family and realized "Wow, I'm really here right now!" Over a year ago I pretty much risked it all; I quit my job (which was a big part of my identity), gave up most of the things in my life that gave me comfort, looked as deep inside as possible, ready for what ever I found, and I am still here, alive, healthy, stronger than ever! That feeling that I was on the verge of something amazing has now turned into the feeling that I have actually made it, that this is exactly the amazing I was looking for, that if this was the my last day, I will sleep peacefully forever. And I mean that.
"When you your lose wealth, you lose nothing. When you lose your health, you lose something. When you lose your character, you lose everything." A wise friend shared this quote to me and I can't agree more. Looking back, I found myself focusing on the wrong things in life but I am so happy that I have tookthe opportunity to change that.
I've been getting that feeling various times over the last couple weeks. Writing again has definitely helped me try harder to look around and capture these moments and really explore and understand how I'm feeling at the time, I call it blog-therapy. Although frightening at times, it is a good feeling to be able to put this out there for friends, family, strangers and the world to see. you have a choice to take a read or not, skip a posting or a couple and it's ok with me.
Five days ago, less than 10 miles from where I sleep, there was a mass-shooting, it was a huge tragedy. Over the last days, I have read/seen crazy amounts of news coverage, talked to people about it and read all of the facebook posts. In emotionally-charged times like this, the sympathies, 'heart goes out,' 'thoughts and prayers,' and other symbolic gestures are everywhere.
- Blogger's note: ok this was the first post i've ever made where I got burned out while i was writing. It has now been a week since I started this post. I've had time to think about it so I'm going to change directions and save us all a little heartache*
...When I think about how I feel about the shooting, I can not say I know what the families are going through and I do not think that thinking about them or 'sending' my thoughts is going to help. It is just a horrible time and I do not think that anyone, regardless if you have or have not had something similar happen to you or someone you know, can really understand or empathize with that kind of loss. For me, this journey is much about preparing myself for the inevitable, my death.
It's bound to happen. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe 50 years from now, but it will happen and it's a pretty scary thing. I have to say that I carried a fear of death throughout my childhood. Crazy as it sounds, it was mainly because the only reason I was afraid to die is that I wouldn't have the chance to fulfill my goals of college and work, that I would die before I reached my full potential of success.
Some time that March day, or the preceding year, that fear changed for me. I started realizing that even though I looked around and had everything I dreamed of, I was not sure how people would remember me if I died, or how they would feel about me. I started an unorganized, long process of looking at the relationships in my life and realized that all of this sucess and comfort I had built had replaced the comfort I found in the people around me. That comfort allowed me to feel ok treating the people close to me in life badly or differently just to maintain that comfort. When having success wasn't enough, I looked for respect and congratulations because getting there just wasn't enough. So the only (un)logical thing for me to do next was give up the money, plans, aspirations, and future for the chance to find new comfort in the moment, in treating my friends, family and strangers with the way I felt on the inside, not the way I wanted them to make me feel.
So back to all those thoughts and prayers, donations and vigils...the only thing I know how to do in times of tragedy, the only thing that I learn when the pain isn't close enough for me to feel is ask myself, "If this was my last moment, right now, do I have any regrets?" Not many people can say no to that question so the next question is "What are those regrets? and what is holding you back from being able to live without that regret?" Some that I used was that I didn't have the money, or the time, or I would be able to tell that person I loved them later or tomorrow, or I had to work, or I was tired.
The moral of the story is that if you want to support those people who have died, or have been affected by tragedy or whatever cause or ailment you sympathize with, why don't you do those people a favor and live your life to the fullest