Each milestone birthday encourages us to take inventory of accomplishments, failures, and opportunities left on the table. Most of us have two checklists, personal and professional. My lists have accrued the bulk of their respective checks over the back half of my twenties. That's how a branding wizard positions a decade in which the first five years were marked by hazy indifference. And "hazy indifference" is how a branding wizard says "drunken stupidity."
But in the last four years I met a girl, got a degree, moved to Dallas, got a job, proposed to the girl, got a better job, got a dog, married the girl, got a promotion, bought a house, changed jobs, and became a father. A pretty good run. My personal life is better than I ever dreamed it would be, so naturally on my birthday I spent eight hours in the office being depressed about the professional dreams which never materialized.
I didn't have terribly lofty or specific goals, just that by age 30 I would have two published books under my belt. The first would enjoy modest success, but I would hit my stride with the second and be working out the movie rights, turning down bigger dollars in favor of a small studio that would allow me the pen the screenplay. You know, easy stuff. The kind of daydreams that haunt you when, on your 30th birthday, you are sitting at your desk in the ad sales bullpen hanging on a client approval e-mail that will decide whether or not next Thursday's revenue meeting will be your turn to get smeared across the conference room by the CEO.
When my eight hour pity party was over, I climbed into my Ford Escape with a backpack full of work materials and a head full of professional regret and headed home to what was to be a fireworks outing with my wife, son, and visiting brother. For anyone that is unfamiliar, going to a fireworks show in Dallas means arriving ridiculously early so you can get a parking spot, fighting 100,000 people for a place to sit in the Texas heat, and packing up shop after the first boom scares the living shit out of your three month old son. Needless to say, this did not seem like a suitable remedy for my state of self-loathing.
When I have a bad day at work, the sight of my son's face as I walk through the door makes my frustration vanish 99% of the time. The other 1% it takes being greeted with Batman streamers, a baseball cake, and my son in jorts and a patriotic onesie that reads "All-America Hunk."
|Gabe and Uncle Jay - two great Americans|
I am guilty of placing pride ahead of perspective far too often. I complain about minor inconveniences and I am always embarrassed in hindsight. I spend a great deal of energy acting as though I do not care what people think, when in reality it consumes me. These are the qualities of a man whose sanity depends on a supportive wife and family. The kind of people who know a bad mood evaporates into the thick smokey air of the Red Knight's cheering section of Medieval Times.
Dallas is very much a "too cool for school" type of city. There are pretty people everywhere. This makes choosing a dinner spot incredibly difficult for a 30 year old man driving around with his wife and brother in matching Ultimate Warrior face paint. Therein lies the brilliance of the Medieval Times tickets they sprung on me as a final birthday surprise. We would have been ostracized at nearly every restaurant in Dallas, but not MT. There we were called Lords, complimented on our enthusiasm, and given a very welcoming smile and nod from a man I would later learn was literally a King.
|Gabe, understandably confused|
If there is one thing I've learned in my 30 years, it's that I am a better husband, father, and person in general when I focus on today. When I wake up with one simple goal - do what it takes to deserve the family you have when you lay down that night.
There are going to be plenty of rough days and professional frustrations along the way, but I have strung together a hell of a lot of great days, and with the exception of the under-performing Red Knight, I have some amazing people in my life.
You've gotta believe there's a book in there somewhere...