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!”