There are moments in life, or at least in my life, where I come to sudden realizations. Epiphanies they call them. But there are also slow, inexorable, seemingly decades long processes where I confirm what I suspected at the start. I don’t know if I can put my finger on the moment when that confirmation became a reality. But, I suspect I am in, or near, one of those moments as I type this.
I spent a good portion of my life pretty well broke. I can still recall when my children were little and I had separated from their mother. I was living in a rent-controlled studio apartment on the wrong side of town. Driving a vehicle graciously given to me by my former father-in-law. One day in particular stands out. My kids asked me to take them to the park, and I had to tell them that I didn’t have gas money for a ride to the park.
Broke! Like, for real!
Which is why I develop a special level of anger at people who assume that because I am white and/or male, that I do not understand the plight of the poor. As if you have to be minority in order to have no money. Let me state for the record…I understand the plight of the poor. I live every day with the knowledge that if I were to lose the access I have to the facilities I work in, I’d be right back in that same boat.
Anyway, Lose Yourself by Eminem came out and the third verse really stuck in my head. I decided that I had to formulate a plot…or end up in jail or shot…
In any event, some 12 years ago (or thereabouts) I began to aggressively pursue success. First through a contact of my then girlfriend (now wife), and then through other contacts made as time went on, I found myself in increasingly better paying jobs.
I did some telecom work for a while. 8 hours a day standing on a ladder, pulling wire over my head. I walk around with messed up shoulders (they tell me it’s arthritis) nowadays as a result (IMHO) of that experience.
Then I got a security clearance and began a series of jobs. Some were physical, some were technical, but each time I took on a new position I got a raise in pay. When you’re dead broke a raise in pay is pretty much all you care about.
Eventually Bev and I got married. Between the two of us the money going into the checking account went up about 10x. I went from telling my kids I could not take them to the park, to sending my oldest to London as part of her senior class. It truly warmed my heart to be able to provide things for my kids, and I regarded this as my highest calling (aside, of course, from teaching them to be decent people).
When I was sitting around watching paint dry for a living (yes, really) I kept thinking (and saying) that I was meant to do more. When I worked Helpdesk, when I filled a small IA role, when I did Requirements work…I kept thinking and saying that I was capable of more. I even wrote a number of blog entries right here about how life has to be about more than just trudging to work to pay the bills.
Oh yeah…the bills. For those who do not know, or have only walked on one side of the street, let me take a moment to tell you about the bills.
When you’re broke…and I mean gas money broke…you “shop”. You find deals on things like food and toilet paper. You try to make sure you have enough money left over to pay for internet access or cable tv…because after all, there has to be something to do on the weekends. You accept gifts and donations from friends and family. You buy books on how to fix things, rather than pay someone to fix them.
When you cross over to where I am now (my eldest still recalls me telling someone that I make enough money to pay someone to punch them in the face), life is different. My wife, having never really lost her low income mindset, still calls me to say that she wants to get her nails done. I always reply with, “Do whatever you want. I don’t care.”
These days I do things like spend a grand a month adding ink to my arms. I wake up and decide I want a Harley, and that afternoon I ride home on my Harley. One of my daughters asks for something…and they get it. In short, I am now living the life I imagined I wanted back when I couldn’t afford to drive to the park. And don’t get me wrong, this is not one of those posts about how money cannot buy happiness. It absolutely can!
When I am sitting at the winery enjoying a good time with my friends…that’s happiness. When I am riding down the road with the wind in my face on the Harley I wanted since I was a kid…that’s happiness. When my daughter gets to see the world, and do things that other kids don’t get to do, and she hugs me and says “thank you daddy!”…that’s happiness. All sponsored by money.
No, this post is about the constant drive to do more, learn more, and earn more. It’s about the fact that when you are always on the bleeding edge…it’s you that does the bleeding. It’s about the thought that maybe I have reached a comfortable place…and then I took one more step…and maybe I should take a step back.
It’s about thinking that maybe a nice, boring, 40 hour a week, do it in my sleep, no certs or training required, type job might not be a bad thing. I had one of those a few weeks ago, and I moved on to where I am now sitting. Because I wanted to do something meaningful and “important”. I wanted to work in “security”. Cyber security to be exact. So here I am.
I haven’t been here long enough to really form an informed opinion. I will give it some time before I really make any important decisions. I am simply writing this because for the first time I can recall in my life, I have moved on from one place to another, taken a step ahead in pay and responsibility…and thought that maybe I made a mistake.
There are a lot of reasons why this thought has crept into my mind, but I won’t bore you with the details until I see how things pan out.
Time will tell. When it does…so will I.