Completing the circle

by Jeb

I’ve been lost in thought, and transition, for several weeks. The former generally does me good. The latter quite the opposite. It’s time I work through it, though. To stick the rudder back in the water and set a course.

Because uncertainty is a bitch…

That’s what it boils down to. I can be resolute. I’ve made my mind up many times. Drawn many a line in the sand. But dammit if there’s not always been some elasticity to that determination that yanked me back from the edge.

Sure I’ve taken a few chances, moved enough times to make some think I’m reckless (more on that below), but I’m not talking about the kind of risks who’s reward is hardly that. I’m talking about the big things. The ones that change life in such a way that yesterday seems like a very long time ago. That truly shift the course of a life for the better. Succeed or fail, the stakes are raised and the outcome is finally so much less important than the endeavor itself.

But that’s quite a trick, isn’t it? Not for everyone, maybe. But for some. For me. Getting to that person I see so clearly at times. Briefly, but right fucking there in front of me. The smallest expanse separates me. From me.

“I cannot turn it off, I don’t have a switch for that
Haven’t crash landed yet, haven’t crash landed yet
Stealing tomorrow, from today.
Stealing tomorrow, from today.”
(Great Lake Swimmers)

Elsewhere…

When I was a boy, my imagination always took me elsewhere. Whether sitting in my room or surrounded by nature, I was always somewhere else, in that idyllic place where the grass really is always green(er). From the time I was 15 or so, the temptation to ‘move on’ has been strong. No particular destination, just somewhere else. It seemed important.

I was led to believe that college was a necessary part of a young man’s progression, so that delayed my flight a bit. The job I held throughout college, and thereafter, assuaged my need for something new/different by allowing me to change positions every 6 months or so. But band-aids only work so well, and for so long, and thus, I moved on.

Virginia, specifically, back to my birth place. Still working for the same company, but in a position of lesser responsibility/commitment, and with the intention of pursuing a graduate degree and joining the world of politics. That seems so funny to say now…and as I reflect on that person I was, on the aspirations I had at the time, I wonder how I’ve arrived at this point. Today. But, alas, the path is a winding one, if we’re so inclined.

In any event, it was a big move, and a good one. And we were happy for a spell. It would take me years to recognize that the feelings which followed these early months were the beginnings of a pattern that would prove to be rather devastating.

It wasn’t 3 months later my wife and I resolved to move back to California. No particular reason, just responding to loneliness, a bit of fear, and the ever present knee-jerk reaction that is a flight to safety. Not that there wasn’t good reason to go. There always is…you can trust me on that one.

The problem with judging our situation so quickly was that we eliminated options. We disengaged from the people and places that made up the context of our lives at the time and without question missed opportunities as a result. Doors that may have opened in time, didn’t…or if they did, we weren’t paying attention. Still, the foregone conclusion that we were moving back to CA aside, we’d made some good friends and had begun to build a nice life…these things that only happen with time. If we let them.

A full year passed before we actually made the move, the result of a well-timed (or so it seemed) promotion. The day of departure came, and it was on this very day of transition we discovered Tess was pregnant with our first child. The stars seemed to be aligning just for us…this is how I saw it. How I justified it.

Two and a half years would pass, and the birth of our second child would be imminent, before I was man enough to admit, in such a way that it mattered, that I was miserable in my work. This wasn’t news, mind you. I’d stepped away from the very path I was now on when moving to VA, for precisely the same reasons. But the path reappeared just when I needed (which is to say, wanted) it, and so I took it up again. The money, after all, allowed us to have Tess home with our boys. And those stars went to all that trouble.

I left the company I was working for after 9 years of employment. My eldest child was just under 2 years old and my second was a couple months in the womb yet, but I needed to go. I began looking years ahead and thinking about what my life would be like if I didn’t change course. I didn’t like what I saw, so off I went.

The next few years, change came by way of professions as opposed to geography. My urge to move on was fulfilled by changing companies or positions therein (an old pattern resurfacing), though it wasn’t long before I had the chance to move for a promotion again, this time in a different industry altogether. Such was the path that led us to Colorado.

I’m gong to skimp on the details from the ensuing 5 years, but they look a lot like those from the previous five. The excitement of a new position or a new place slowly replaced by the temptation to move along. It seemed so much easier to go on to Plan B (or C, or…) than it was to commit to what I was doing, to give it an honest go, and to take full responsibility for the outcome. Of course, the long term consequences of this strategy weren’t particularly considered, so between the time we moved to CO with that long-ago company, and now, there’ve been four other companies and three other moves (VA, then back to CO, and finally back to CA, where I write this today).

So I don’t think it’s entirely inaccurate to suggest I have trouble with commitment. But I think the bigger issue is personal responsibility. That, too, is strange to say, and to think about, because I’ve been committed to my wife for 16 years (not to mention the years of dating prior) and responsible, along with her, for our family for almost as long. But that’s something entirely different, isn’t it?

Commitment and responsibility to my family versus the same for my work life. It wasn’t until this past year that I started thinking about them as two sides of the same coin. For the many previous years, they were completely separate in my mind, and often times, contentious. Not really, of course, not always. But in my mind, somewhere along the way I got the idea that the two were mutually exclusive. That having a successful career could only be at the expense of a happy family, and vice versa. It’s not too terribly hard to imagine how said association was formed, but that’s another story. The point is simply that it existed. And my life reflects it quite accurately.

But the thing is, committing to, and taking responsibility for, something that means nothing to me is hard to do. That’s pretty easy to figure, and why it’s taken me so long to recognize it is worth further considering. Or maybe not. Looking back in judgment of oneself is rarely a good idea.

What now?

For now, I’m content with the arrival of this knowledge, late or otherwise. Because it has brought me to the understanding that family, and by extension, all that I love about life, must be intimately connected to the work that I do. The line which divides these things must blur to the point that their distinction disappears.

That’s a tall order. Which is likely why I’ve taken so long to come to it. The truth is, this isn’t some new revelation - I’ve known it on some level since I was a boy - nor is it particularly unique. With the tools we have at hand today, working in ways that disregard societal norms is more and more possible. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. And regardless how many people talk about it, or how prevalent it’s featured in the media or  on popular blogs, making this kind of change is hard.

Having come full circle, though, it’s unquestionably necessary. Hammering out the details, then, will occupy much of my time going forward. Naturally, if I had a passion/interest/talent/etc that was easily monetized, this process would be simpler. But to date, I’ve yet to find someone who’d like to pay me to skateboard/take pictures/write/drink fine beer/run trails. So the search continues…or perhaps it’s better to say it begins. In earnest.

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{ 1 trackback }

Mine for the taking — How To Matter
09/21/2009 at 11:34 am

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Henie 08/25/2009 at 9:03 am

My Dear Jeb!

How I’ve missed your words of insight! Your determination unabashedly shown and shared is always I gift I look forward to, and savor. Thank you for your thoughts, your creativity and your boldness to always adhere to that which is within only you! God, I love that you are closer in distance (traffic be damned, of course!) and that your thoughts once again flow through the passageway of your heart and soul! Welcome home, bud…and to Tess, a great big welcome home hug as well!

“Stand firm your ground against fear for it holds your best solution!” ~Henie~
Henie´s last blog ..Who Does Reality Anymore Except TV Shows My ComLuv Profile

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2 Jeb 08/26/2009 at 8:28 am

Ah, Henie, you know just the right (write) things to say. :) Writing is so much easier when you’ve got confidence that someone wants to read it…you’ve given me that for certain, and I’m very grateful. With the move behind me and things starting to settle down a bit, I think writing will come easier for me. It’s always been the best method for working through things for me, and goodness knows I’ve got some things to work through. Thank you, Henie, for always showing up. :)

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3 TinkerBell_glow 08/25/2009 at 1:57 pm

Hi Jeb,

tripping over your latest blog post this morning was a great inspiration to start my day!

As you describe your job hopping and moving on and on as being not committed to your work life, I see a HUGE commitment to yourself in it. Not spending time in a position or place that doesn’t feel right for you and lift you up is brave to me. Especially with my European background I can’t name many people out of my network who would have done it - many are still in an unsatisfying career, feeling somehow like a puppet in a puppet play. The only question is, who’s the puppet master?

It might have been a lot of change even for US standards, but hey, you’ve taken advantage of different offers, letting reality give you actual feedback (do I like it? do I fit in that place?) Paying attention again and again seems smart to me. Isn’t it our first responsibility to make sure we are happy in the first place? How could you be a good husband, dad, brother, friend.. if you were totally worn out by an unfulfilling job?

I’m so excited for you searching for new work projects that will offer you the right environment to feel at ease, playing (instead of working hard) and at the same time allow you the lifestyle and qualitiy time with your family the way YOU want it. Have fun designing your life! Look at all the details that are important to you - maybe travelling (not necessarily moving), being in different places from time to time is just one piece of your life puzzle? I’m a traveller, too. Being too long in one place is makes my vitality drop.. so, I’m on the road quite a bit. But it took me a few years to accept it, and change my life around it. Not too easy to make that shift, I agree, but asking yourself how to balance the two sides of the coin is just about the start of that transition. You’ve already taken the first step, huh?

Thx for sharing your thoughts! That’s a great story to tell and show people there’s always a choice to make if you’re not happy with your career.

TinkerBell*

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4 Jeb 08/26/2009 at 8:43 am

There, you see that TB, this is the true power in sharing our stories. We’re so close to it, and often times we’ve judged its meaning far too soon, not allowing for much flexibility in interpretation. For so many years I’ve looked upon my transient nature as negative, as a flight from something, as the inability to commit significantly.

But then you show up and suggest that perhaps the more important meaning it offers is a commitment to myself. To becoming better, for me, for my people, for the world around me. You are 100% correct TB, I’ve gotten feedback. I’ve paid attention. And the foundation of it all has always been my desire to tap into that feeling I get, from time to time, and only briefly, that shows me just how infinite and amazing this life really is. And even more critically, to help my boys feel it more consistently.

This is a new way of thinking about my story, and it changes things for me. Thank you, Tinker Bell, for taking the time to make this impact. Truly.

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