The First Day

It all started in a little field in Goldston, North Carolina on Columbus Day weekend in 2008. It had been a tough year and our family needed a weekend away to reenergize. It was a fun weekend of swimming, relaxation and a lot of kid friendly activities. And on the first day of our trip, we attended the Goldston Old Fashion Day.

As Stephanie and I sat there in a field off of West Goldbar Avenue and watched our children playing in the bounce house, our conversation turned serious for a moment. “I met you when your Mom was a little older than I am now, Steph,” I said as I watched my kids having a good time with some of the local children. “If she only knew she had seventeen years left to live, do you think she would have spent more time accomplishing all of the things that she dreamed about doing?”

“Everyone would,” Stephanie replied, “but no one knows what tomorrow is going to bring.”

Sage advice from my deeply grounded wife and there was a lot of wisdom in her statement for me to ponder. A few months later, I spent the day living out one of my dreams in Disney World. It had been years since I had had the itch to take the stage but in one afternoon, I was reacquainted with my old passion to perform. And as the day was ending, I was still on cloud nine. Unable to fall asleep, I walked around our hotel grounds and took in the sights and sounds of a brisk Florida evening and thought for a moment, “What if?”

My own personal theme song begins with a simple unarguable truth, “I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined. I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned.” My life is a series of complex short stories. I have written the accounts of my life as a history for my friends and family but most importantly, for my children. And somewhere in the pages of my existence, I hope I have touched a heart, inspired someone to achieve greatness and once in a while, passed along my own kernel of wisdom for some of you to ponder.

But even after acknowledging all of that, I haven’t been able to get Stephanie’s response out of my head. “Everyone would, but no one knows what tomorrow is going to bring” because the ending is unplanned. What happens today affects tomorrow because as I make decisions, I inevitably set a new course. And until recently, I didn’t realize how much I have been living a reactionary life. My existence has been decided by responding to external forces. The economy, friends, work, clients, “the devil I know as opposed to the devil I don’t” and finally, (my mother’s old saying), remembering that “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.” A lot of my decisions have been safe ones that have been made to stave off impending disaster and in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the world around me.

Last fall, I accidentally sat in on a professional development seminar at another agency. I was early for a meeting and the door to the conference room was open. So I slipped into the room and sat quietly against the back wall. The topic of discussion was, “Which is more important, working to live or living to work?”

It was an intriguing dialogue and I have carried the content of that seminar with me over the past few months as I have delved into the deepest parts of my heart and soul to uncover what I want out of my life. I want to watch my children grow up. I want to be a father who is always there for them when they need me. I want my marriage to continue to evolve and flourish into a life where Stephanie and I accomplish all of our dreams. I want there to be music, laughter, love and great stories that can be passed onto our grandchildren and our great grandchildren. I want my life to be fulfilled beyond my wildest imagination.

Robert Frost once wrote in his poem The Road Not Taken “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” I don’t pretend to know all of the answers. I, like many of my friends, am making the best decisions I can make based on the information I have at my disposal. But I have always been proud of the fact that when I came to a fork in the road, I have always taken the road less traveled.

So after a lot of soul searching and personal examination, the writing was written so clearly on the wall. I have come to another fork in the road and I have to do what is best for me and my family. So after eleven years as the Executive Director of my agency, I have resigned.

Times are tough but more importantly, life is short. There are no second chances or replays. I have one opportunity to achieve what I want out of life. So as I go forward, I guess it is true what they say, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life!”

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7 Responses to The First Day

  1. Mike Robertson says:

    Doug, Now that you are free to do and go anywhere what are you and Stephanie planning? As one who has made a number of rather dramatic career changes over the years there are always opportunities that open up. The challenge is to discover what is the proper path. I decided in about 1988 that I would do what God wanted me to do and prayed for direction. It has been an interesting and fulfilling journey ever since and it continues today. I wish you all teh very best and if I can help in any way please let me know. Love, Mike

  2. Stephanie says:

    May we continue to be blessed with all of our graces in North Carolina! It will be scary but I know we will make another great life in Take 2 of our life story!

  3. Christine says:

    “A lot of my decisions have been safe ones that have been made to stave off impending disaster and in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the world around me.” How freeing and courageous to make a decision that may not be “safe” per se but one that is sure to provide additional meaningful personal fulfillment in ways you know exist.. but haven’t yet found on this journey we call life…

    First of all, you HAVE touched many hearts and many lives…mine being one of them, and just last night I thought of you as a blessing in my daughter’s life as well. This is not surprising to me that 12 hours later you would share a very personal and poignant post since you were on my mind.

    When I was laid off in November from what seemed to be a promising and lucrative career path, I was forced to re-examine my life, my demanding work schedule over the years and what my true priorities were. I too have needed to muster up courage on this new path of unknowns, and trust God has a bigger plan for me and for my daughter…its a time of true soul searching and walking by faith and not by sight..

    I applaud you for your decision and you will be missed. You have touched our lives with your concern and years of friendship for this single mom and her little girl. I know that God will honor your decision and I am so proud of you and happy for you and your family. How wonderful that your inner compass has guided you up to this point …with means convincing enough yet again to help give you all the confidence you need to follow your new path on this journey we call Life .. 🙂 God bless you all and keep you in His care, and thank you for the ways in which you have touched my life and my spirit.

  4. Christine says:

    PS… I look forward to hearing more about your new journey 🙂

  5. Marie says:

    Hi Douglas,

    What a beautiful piece. So when are you moving????

    We only wish you the best for you and your wonderful family. Keep me posted as to the next chapter.

    Love, Marie

  6. angie says:

    I am glad that you and Steph are finally following one of your many dreams! I hope that I have the guts to do that someday too!

  7. Deb says:

    Dear Doug,

    I am speechless. I am saddened about your moving on as this will be a tremendous loss for children and families and in the school age field. On the other hand, I am happy for you as you seem so comfortable and certain about your decision. I also believe you have had this conversation with yourself and with others (including me) for a while now so this is not a decision based on a whim. I want to share that I was very touched and moved by your writing and it inspired me to be true to myself and that my dreams can become my reality.

    Please stay connected and send me updates about your new path.

    All the best to you and your family,
    Debbie

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