There was a time when I thought education ended with graduating from college. Now I’m sure it doesn’t begin until long after. Learning about life requires living life, and there isn’t a professor who can help any of us with that.
I’m not a huge fan of writing about myself, but every once in a while I wander into the serendipity of putting word together in the right order to illuminate – at least for myself – what my life is about. So occasionally I indulge in a bit of self-immersion in the hopes that I come to a better understanding of how my decisions impact others.
A few weeks ago, I left a good job in radio. I was the program director of one of the top sportstalk stations in America. It required that I live in St. Louis while my wife and son live in Indianapolis. My wife made the drive week after week to and from St. Louis, so we could be together Thursday night through Monday morning. At first, it was great. Every weekend was like a mini-vacation.
The plan was for us to sell our house, and for Julie to move to St. Louis. The house didn’t sell for the price we needed to make the move worthwhile, and we shelved the whole relocation. At that point, life became less joyful. Without light at the end of the tunnel, the routine became drudgery.
Julie told me in February that she had prayed I would find a way home, so I did. There are two ways to respond to a revelation like that. One is to move home. The other is not to. My advice to husbands is to listen to wives’ prayers.
So what happens now that I’m back in Indianapolis? One of the surprises in moving back is how many more people I know and like than I remembered. Out of sight, out of mind works in both directions, and frankly I didn’t want to be one of those guys who tries to hang on in his old hometown while spending all his time in the new one.
I’ve done that before, and while it feels good initially, it makes the transition to the new place more protracted and weird than necessary. When my family moved to New Albany, Indiana, from Lake Bluff, Illinois, I was one miserable eighth grader. I saved quarters, so I could call my old school’s pay phone between classes. It was $2.05 for three minutes, and they were the highlight of my week. Eventually, I became comfortable in New Albany, but for awhile, I was the weirdo who was alive only when he was on the phone.
Better to just move on, so that’s what I did. In addition to being a hell of a lot better prepared to deal with adversity now than as a 14-year-old, Julie’s visits made huddling in a hotel room and then an apartment easier.
Now it’s time to move on again – at least professionally. I hope to always maintain the friendships I made in St. Louis because those are some of the best people I’ve met. One thing I’ve learned about life is that you don’t turn away from really good people. I haven’t always been that smart. I have a couple of friends that I don’t communicate with nearly enough – one from grade school I haven’t talked to in 30 years. What a disgrace.
So now that I’m back as a part of the family that has given my life purpose and validation, toward what end do I invest my efforts?
I used to live to make people laugh. That was great fun, and there was damn near nothing I wouldn’t do to get a laugh. I was especially keen on doing things that made me laugh, and it wasn’t always an exhibition of which I should be proud. There were several episodes at my 10-year high school reunion where people accosted me about comments I had made. I had no recollection of what most were talking about, but the message that words can cause lasting angst if not pain was understood.
There are still times when indulging in pointless acts are worthy, but overall what I value in others and myself is the decision to find the truth and tell it. The older I get, the more everything else pales in comparison to the importance of the truth. When I write, I try to get to the essence of something. When I talk, I want to represent a pure thought – that’s the goal at least.
The bullshit that regularly spews from the mouths of those in power offends me. When Dr. Laura was on WIBC, when I worked there, I hated her show. She was arrogant and judgmental advising people to avoid telling the truth if it would hurt someone. Christ, the truth is the truth, and the only truths worth tell are the difficult ones. To advise people against that represents everything that sucks in our society.
Arrogance is a miserably foolish and fear-based trait, and there is nothing I enjoy more than using whatever portal at my disposal the bring humility to the arrogant. Whatever I do is going to have a lot of that in it. Whether I’m writing or talking, the people who try to build themselves up while sacrificing the careers of others will be penalized to the extent I can.
The other thing I really enjoy is telling the stories of those who unflinchingly face adversity. If they overcome it, all the better, but those who stand up for what they believe when it’s tough are worth writing and talking about. The fear of adversity is paralytic and cheats people out of the purpose of life, which is to learn as much as we can, and to pass those lessons along to the following generations, so they can move beyond our level of wisdom.
People work like hell to gather money without giving any thought to the wisdom that life used to be all about. Not understanding or nurturing the character of yourself or others while amassing material wealth is so absolutely wasteful it defies all that we purport to be as spiritual members of a supposedly enlightened and fortunate society.
I want to tell the stories of those who live full and rich lives, and I also want to bring the consequence of transparency to those who don’t – or at least use them as examples of the people who just don’t get it.
If I can live up to those two missions, I’m going to sleep well knowing that I’m at least making an effort. If at the same time I can make myself laugh, I’ll claim victory.
None of it has anything to do with money. We’re in okay shape financially, and that’s all I need. Trying to love what I can make money doing has gotten me here. Doing what I love and trying to make money at it will take me to whatever is next.
Managing the programming for great radio stations was fun, but now I’m focused on telling the stories that matter to me.
With my family intact, I have nothing to lose, and nothing to lose is a powerful place to be.