Work/Life Balance – A Personal Story – Don’t Make the Mistake I Did!

work life balance

I was the sole provider of income for our family for many years.  My wife worked in the early years of our marriage, but once we started having kids, she stayed home, and I went after career, income, and what I thought was security. I told myself that working harder and longer and saying yes to roles involving travel and management enabled my wife to stay home and would help to build our “secure” financial future. Making these decisions did bring some financial freedoms with it, and when I could get off work, we would take the kids to amazing places. I told myself that the kids wanted these lavish vacations, and my focus on career enabled that.  Yes, that is what I told myself.

When my oldest son was about to turn 17, we were in Breckenridge, Colorado.  We rented a house, and we went skiing for a week. I talked on a gondola ride up to the top of the mountain with my soon-to-be 17-year-old son. I asked him questions about his friends, goals, and passions as I tried desperately to catch up as a father.  What I found out on that very long gondola ride was that I didn’t know his friends or anything of any significant depth about him now. I am not sure why the epiphany hit me so hard that day, but I cried (tears hidden from view by my goggles) on much of that ride and for most of the rest of the day and the days that followed. How the hell did I get here?

I told myself every excuse I could think of why this wasn’t so bad (to mask the pain).  I told myself that my family was counting on me to bring in the income. We arrived home from Breckenridge on a Sunday, and I had to fly out Monday morning for a business trip. I got on that plane and flew to my destination, but my heart was elsewhere.  I cut my trip short, canceled the interviews for the next day, and called my wife.  I told her that I was resigning from my employer and would talk with her and my employer when I returned home.  After a few gasps and questions, I headed for the airport to catch a flight home.  I didn’t want to waste one more moment. I couldn’t get back those 17 years, but I could make a change for the next one.  That resignation turned out to be the best decision that I have ever made. 

My son died 6 months after his 18th birthday. We buried him on the day he was supposed to move into his dorm room at ASU. Its impossible to explain in words the pain you and your family experience when something like this happens. However, I got to know my son the year before he died. Our souls touched for the first time during that year. I got to know his friends and his passions.  I watched his favorite show with him over lunch and learned what he did when he was happy and sad. He played his guitar for me.  I learned about his fears and anxieties.  I listened to him, and I heard him. 

I tell you this story not to make you sad or feel sorry for us but to tell you a personal story of my mistake on balance. One that I hope will make you truly think about your own chosen life/work balance.  I can now answer the question, “How did I get here?”.  It wasn’t one decision but a series of small decisions made in the busy path of life with misplaced priorities.  It all happens so fast, and then its too late. I tell you this story hoping someone will read this and reconsider their path. We are not guaranteed anything in life but “this moment”.  Don’t spend your time looking back, feeling guilty or worrying about the future.  Enjoy this moment fully with richly balanced consideration.  Check “your story” at the door and consider each of the souls you influence before making life and career choices.


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