We sat waiting for the few remaining tardy guests to be seated so the wedding ceremony could begin. It was my nephew Matthew’s and his fiancé Kayla’s wedding day. In the stillness of the moment I decided to check my smartphone for email and text messages. One had arrived. It was from a friend who advised that her father had just passed from this life into another. While he lived a long a full life, regardless it was sad news.
Such a contrast. Two hundred of us had reserved the day to celebrate the start of a new life for two young people. Not far away a similar number of people were caught in the remembrance of a life fully lived but now ended.
I reflected on the gap in-between. Some sixty years between the beginning and the end of the two lives. What was accomplished for one and could be accomplished by another in those sixty years? I visited my own life and asked myself the same question. In the thirty six years since that lifetime commitment was made in May 1978, what has been accomplished as one and as two?
It would be easy to list achievements or the lack of related to anything financial, career and academic. But what captured my thoughts was as most of you would also conclude, related to my kids. One just returned from a good will trip to Guatamala where a group of young people worked with the less fortunate to help make their lives better in the simplest of ways. Another is interning with an organization that focuses on improving the lives of those living in North Korea.
I realized they have both developed the same value system which is dominated by a respect for human life and a desire to help those in need. This then, is my (our) greatest achievement.
As I now transition out of another corporate job, my mind is competing with the need to earn enough to pay the bills and the desire to focus on something that has a life changing impact on others just as my kids are doing.
Transitioning is not easy. In the past I have worked with search consultants, transition experts, organizational psychologists, successful executives and well meaning colleagues, all eager to provide the advice that will make my life easier. All of their suggestions became quite confusing. I remember though the advice of one friend, Anton. He simply said, “No one is going to make the decision for you. You have to make it yourself. And until you do, you are going nowhere!”
The difficulty is in the waiting for the right opportunity to arrive. Waiting requires faith and trust. For many they transition from one activity to another quite quickly and easily. For me it just doesn’t happen that way. The last time it took a year to figure it out. But when I did finally make a decision, I spent six years working diligently on something that I found quite fulfilling. And now the cycle repeats itself. Faith and trust are tough to hold on to in the midst of uncertainty. But when there doesn’t seem to be anything else, they do become life’s support pillars.
Transitioning is also difficult because you realize many of the relationships with colleagues were nothing more that opportunities for them to leverage a connection. These were connections built on personal potential gain rather than mutual respect and support.
Transition is also tough because there is such a visible lack of regard for anything you may have accomplished. It is all quickly forgotten. When you think of the commitment, dedication, sacrifice and effort you poured into your job, only to be so completely and quickly ignored once you exit, you ask yourself if it was all worth it. Or you begin to believe the negative from what people have to say and doubt your own self worth.
Sarah Palin, during her run for President of the US made famous the phrase “the bridge to nowhere”! Transitioning can be like that. After years of a set direction, the road ends and now you feel you are on a road to nowhere. But it is a lie we tell ourselves and allow our minds and hearts to believe.
Transitioning can be and should be exciting. It is a time of exploration and discovery. It is an opportunity to really determine what makes life worth living. I was reading Forbes, the business magazine yesterday. The President/CEO of Boston Beer, made a simple statement. He Said “find something to do that makes you really happy as opposed to simply wealthy!”
So during this time of transition, at this stage in life, with the remaining years God has allotted to me, the focus will be on discovering that which will be fulfilling rather than doing what is nothing more than filling time.
Where are you in life? On a bridge going nowhere. Or have you found what makes you happy. Is what you are doing, what fulfills you? Sometimes though we are fortunate, because we have found both what makes us happy and wealthy. But if not, what matters most?
Your comments are welcomed.