Archive for December, 2012

To do or not to do

Posted: December 30, 2012 in Philosophy

On the eve of the eve of the new year, I was inspired today by someone who I feel honored to call my friend and my brother.  To me, there are few things more important than respect, honesty and appreciation.  I tell my kids (well, Zoe for now–Zak is still a little young for that lesson) all the time that I expect them to respect every one they interact with, to respect their belongings, and to respect the belongings of others.  Being disrespectful to anyone or anything is a big no-no in my book, and they know it.  And, this blog has nothing to do with respect.

It does have to do with honesty and appreciation–and if you want to see that executed flawlessly, go check out my brother’s blog.  I wanted to share my take on the recent period that brought him to write that entry, although you will find it can be applied to many different people and situations.

Case 1: Although I can remember it like it was yesterday, more than two years has passed since I sent a very heartfelt message to several of my now somewhat-distant family members who I had previously seen with some frequency, at least during the holidays.  Here’s the gist, all the way from August 11, 2010:

I think that when life happens, and it sure does, it’s so easy to get caught up in it, to forget things, to ignore people.  And the best thing about that is, when you’re caught up in it, you don’t have to deal with guilt, or grief, or reminiscence.  It’s a lot easier being oblivious.

But I’ve been thinking lately that it’s not really right for it to be that way.  I’m not a family kind of guy, and I never really have been.  Janine always talks about how awesome the holiday gatherings were for her when she was growing up.  And I was fortunate enough to be able to experience twice, and sometimes thrice that—being from a “broken home” has its advantages, one of which being all the wonderful food and the wonderful variety of atmospheres.

And then you grow up, or in my case, you start to, and you get caught up in your own things.  And it’s easy to get used to the same routine, especially if it’s so different from how you grew up.

That’s not my excuse, though.  Here are some of the things I’ve missed:

                • My brother, who is a various serious, dedicated and talented musician, has invited me to virtually every performance he has ever been a part of.  Musicals, concerts…he even invited me to a concert this weekend, free ticket and all, and I turned it down because I was selfish about what was being performed.  Yet, when a coworker asked me today if I wanted his Cleveland Pops tickets for a September concert, my immediate response was “yes,” assuming Janine and I could get a babysitter for that night.  But, I have no personal ties to the Pops, to this coworker, and I don’t even know what is being performed.  That’s doesn’t seem right.
                • Before my mom died, right before we were evicted from our last apartment as a family (my brother, me and her), we lost our furniture, our pots and pans, small appliances—pretty much everything.  But the most upsetting thing to have lost in that mess was a small notepad filled with some of her most treasured recipes.  You know, the handwritten kind that are only written once, that get handed down.  We were so caught up in what was going on that we didn’t think about those recipes, those pages filled with some of the happiest memories I have.
                • The funniest thing about this is my Aunt is still alive.  She probably has those recipes.  Well, some of them at least.  So what’s to stop me from trying to get that piece of happiness back?  Why wouldn’t I just call her up, connect with her on Facebook, or ask one of her kids?  Because my mind is fixed on the potential awkwardness of the first 5 minutes of conversation, where we talk about why I haven’t made any effort to communicate in the last 5 years.  And in 5 minutes, that stuff would be over, but I’m so stubborn, so selfish in concentrating on how I will feel that I forget about the gain in it all.
                • Janine and I have a beautiful daughter, her name is Zoe.  We learned a hard lesson when Janine’s grandpa died in the last year, and he had never even seen her.  She is 19 months old now, and she has never met anyone from my mom’s extended family.  Or my dad’s.  Sure, she won’t remember at this point, and that’s my excuse.  My selfish excuse.  But what about the gain?

It’s really hard to break out of your comfort zone—I guess that’s why they call it that.  I’ve neglected a lot of people and a lot of relationships in the last half decade or more, because I’m too caught up in what’s going on.  I’m not happy about it, and I feel like I’m being pushed to fix it.

Please accept my apology if you have ever felt left out or neglected by me.

Case 2: Shortly after the resulting family gathering after sending the message above, I had a conversation with my stepmom about the nature of things, and how I felt like I had a tendency to ignore everyone who didn’t live with me.  She reassured me then, saying that we can’t help but get caught up in our own lives.  And in all honesty, that’s how it should be.  If you have a family for which you are responsible, your top priority will always be providing for them.  If you don’t have a family for which you are responsible, and you instead think of your closest friends as your family, you can expect to get caught up in the every day “goings on” of those people.  But in both cases, you tend to put yourself second to those you love most. And there isn’t anything wrong with that.

Case 3: Approximately a year ago, I did something kind of foolish–I told my employer that I had planned on leaving shortly after graduating the following May, because I wanted to pursue a career more in line with my diploma.  I learned quickly that I should have thought long and hard before delivering that message, and in the end ought to have kept it to myself.  But my intentions weren’t negative–I had been with a company for several years and things felt like they were getting stale.  And, with the upcoming credential that I had worked so hard for, I felt it was a good opportunity to make things new again, to have a fresh start.

Of course, the messages above still ring true with me today.  But I’d like to think that through all of this, I’ve learned a thing or two–and here’s how it all turned out:

Case 1: We had a really awesome party as a result of that message.  And nobody–not one person–brought up how long it had been since we had spent time together.  We had a great time, enjoyed one another’s company, and went back to our normal lives the next day.  In November of the same year, my Aunt Bev passed away.  We miss her dearly.

Case 2: Every time I feel like my kids don’t see their extended family enough, I remember that my extended family, too, is caught up in their every-day “goings on.”  I try to take what opportunities I have to see those folks periodically, but if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world–for them, for me, or for my kids.  It’s just life.

Case 3: I am thankfully still employed with the same company.  Sure, I’d like to use my degree for something professionally, but I have a lot of time for the right opportunity to come up. In the meantime, I work for a great company, with a bunch of great people, get paid pretty well, and don’t hate my job.  What more can you ask for?

So, what does it all mean?  Here’s what I’ve learned: It’s OK to get caught up in your own life, or in the life of those near you, and to forget about all the fringe crap.  Don’t worry about it, you’ll have time to get to the fringe when you have time.  Don’t get down on yourself for not making something happen that you thought you should have accomplished by now.  It took me 8 years to get my undergrad…and I am very happy and proud to be where I am right now; had I finished in 4 years, who knows how much of the good stuff I enjoy right now might be missing from my life.

At the same time though, every now and then you’ll have a personal renaissance, and they can be wonderful…but they can also get you in trouble.  Be cautious, and don’t make any rash decisions just because you think you’ve been sitting still too long.  I’m a numbers guy, and I can say with some certainty that you’ll have plenty of time to accomplish your goals.

So if you’re currently undergoing a personal renaissance, I wish you the best of luck.  If you’re in a slump, enjoy the scenery while you’re there–when things are moving quickly for you again, you won’t have as much to stop and smell the roses.  And regardless of what category you’re in, I’d love to share your story with others–email me at jake@inspiredbyrandom.com.

Thanks as always for reading.  Please have a safe and happy New Year.  Be well, and stay tuned.

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