I changed my path. It took me over 10 years. There are many reasons I did this, many reasons it took so long as well. I have a list of reasons that I started about 10 years ago. The list grew and solidified over time.
Today, though, I wanted to share two of the reasons taken from my list: More time to just “be” and “more time with my family.”
Although I could have spent 30 years in the military, I spent 20. All told, probably 5 of these years were spent away from my loved ones, my wife, and my children. When you count my waking hours, I probably spent over 70% of them doing some kind of work (do the calculation on your job…how many hours do you spend WITH those closest to you compared to those at work?). Why did I do such a thing? To some extent, I felt that I had a calling to do so…I was driven originally by duty, by a belief in an idea that I was serving others. Of course, my ego played a part and my career and performance mattered. As time went by, it started to become more about “climbing the ladder,” more rank, more money, and more prestige. The culture encouraged it. “What are you doing next?” was a more common question than “what are you doing right now?” At that point, I realized it was the beginning of the end. The chasing was not making me happy. On top of all of this, my reasons I was serving in the military started to disappear. I began to see things differently, but I won’t elaborate on that now.
At the point I really started noticing these things is exactly when things started looking good in my career. That ladder was calling. Actually it was more like an escalator that kept accelerating. I could ride the escalator, but why wait? If I ran, I would climb that much quicker. This was when I had 10 years until I could qualify for a military retirement: I was only half way there. Time went by, 5 years passed, and things were really looking good for my career, and I became even less interested in it. When I hit 18 years, I was certain that it was time to do something different. Now, what would you do if you had 2 more years to qualify for a retirement that would be paid for the rest of your life? Well, you would probably do what I did; I delayed gratification until I could earn that retirement…I had a set point. Eventually though, I would come back to those who I loved and spend more time with them. I would also spend more time with me, doing things I truly loved and just “being.”
There are reasons to leave loved ones behind. Sometimes, there are great things that need to be accomplished that your family will understand. If you are “this close” to curing cancer, and you spend 16 hours a day in a lab, then those nearest to you might even push you out because they know you are part of something very important. You still need balance, though. For me, there was no cause, no reason to be be pushing, grasping, and chasing. It was time to change the path. I took an inventory of what was important to me and how I wanted to live (the whole point of philosophy, right?). I looked at that inventory, prioritized and knew it was time to make a change…eventually. During those last 5 transition years, I will admit there were times when I was living for the future. That was the bargain I made.
It’s easy for me to say now, that I would have done it differently if I could have lived those 20 years again. Sometimes I say that, but mostly I am glad for every experience…they led me to now. Now is good.
I continue on the journey, and choices still have to be made…plenty of them! I’ll continue to use my reason to make those choices on “how to live.”