A Life Worth Living
I grew up in a wealthy home as a kid. My dad was obsessed with making money, his car and living “the good life” in front of everyone around him. It affected me because I thought that was how things were because it’s all that I knew. There were so many times that as a kid that I wished he would take the time to go camping with me or have an adventure together instead of always working.
My mom was so different from my father. She didn’t need much, she was humble and loved her kids with all of her heart. I was always closer to mom growing up because when she spent time with you, she wanted to be there in that moment with you rather than feeling like “it had to be done.”
My dad wanted my brothers and I to take after him and become a doctor or work somewhere in the medical field. The sad part was that he did most of it because of the lifestyle and not to help actual patients. I never understood that even until this day. In college my dad came to visit me and while sitting at lunch he told me that he was leaving my mom. As I sat there in disbelief all I could say is, “Why?” And he replied with, “I’ve never really been true to your mother for years and now it’s time for me to move on with my life.”
Some of you may have your mouths dropped right now or some may be thinking “I can totally relate to you right now.” That was such a blow to me in that moment. I had always wondered how the two of them fit together but now it all made sense. Mom loved being a mom but was in some ways trapped but had a good life being taken care of…
In that moment, I went back to my dorm room and called the administration office to let them know I was no longer attending medical school. Sure, it may have been a quick call but as I saw my father make the choices he did, I knew I did not want to go anywhere near that path he was going down. Not in any way am I bashing the medical field, this was solely a decision due to what I grew up with.
I was 20 and had dropped out of college not knowing what the heck I was going to do. There’s a pier that I always use to go to right off the North Carolina shore. I was sitting there one afternoon just trying to do a little thinking about what to do with my life when I noticed this homeless guy sitting there on the beach. He turned around and looked right at me. You could feel his eyes just staring into your soul too. I looked away and when I looked back he was already making his way up to me. Of course I had a thought that he was going to come attack me or ask me for money which I didn’t have. He came and sat right beside me. He didn’t say anything for a few minutes and as I tried to break the awkwardness he says, “Shhh, just listen.” We sat there for another few minutes and then he asked me, “What are you searching for son?”
Me: “I have no idea what direction to take with my life. What I’ve known or grown up with is now just a blur.”
Man: “Don’t look at bad things that happen in your life as being punished, look at them as if your next chapter is about to be written. I had everything you could ever want or that money could buy about a year ago. I lost my job, my house, friends (that weren’t real friends) and what others might call the ‘good life.’
Me: “You lost it all? How are you making it now without anything?”
Man: “Ah, you see that’s just it…I didn’t really need a thing, I needed a new perspective. Too many feel like they have to have this perfect life when really there is no perfect life even though people like to pretend on facebook. Yes, I know what facebook is kid. Now that I don’t live the fast life I’ve learned to slow down and notice things around me, even people just like you.”
Me: “So you want to stay this way or do you have an idea of what you want to do from here?”
Man: “You see that for sale sign over there hanging in that beach front store? I would love to open a restaurant right there where people can walk to and from the beach while enjoying some good southern food. That’s what I would do at least.”
Me: “That actually sounds like a great plan. I have always wanted to own my own business but never shared that with my dad because he wouldn’t get it. He tended to look down on many small business owners.”
Man: “Well then what are you waiting for? Life is short kid to spend it doing things that you hate or wasting it away just away a ton of money. You don’t have to have all the answers, you just have to have faith.”
Me: “You’re right. I’ve just never had anyone tell me that. I’ve always been given everything rather than working for something and I feel like that’s what I’ve been missing. This is always what I wished my dad would have done with me, just sit and listen to me. How did you know that I was searching for something?”
Man: “It’s called slowing down and it’s what I do.”
As the man stood up, the sun hit his face just at the perfect moment that literally almost blinded me where I had to turn and look away. I stood up and he stuck out his hand to me while saying, “Go find what makes you happy, don’t be afraid but also never let money consume you that it blinds what you’re here to do.”
He walked away and back down to the beach. As I started to walk away, I turned back to see if he was still down there and he was gone. Yes, gone.
Fast forward 5 years later…
I now own a surf shop on the beach and also teach disabled kids how to surf. I’ve never been happier. A few months after I spoke to the man on the beach, I talked with my mom about what I wanted to do and she said to me, “I knew you would find your way and do something amazing with your life.” She had put away money over time in hopes that my brothers and I would break out of the family mold that my dad built around us. She helped me fund the beginning stages of my surf shop and helped me in every aspect possible to make it one amazing business. Who knew that mom was such a business savvy person?
I went back to the beach a few months later to try and find that man I had spoken to but he was nowhere to be found. I asked a local cop if he had seen him around but he said to me, “Son, I’ve been working this area for 10 years and never seen the man you’re describing to me.”
I had to really think about it and wondered if it was a dream or something but I know it wasn’t a dream at all. It was real. Maybe he was an angel, I wouldn’t doubt it at all. Whatever he was, I owed him a big thank you for taking the time to listen and making me realize it’s ok to slow down and pay attention.
Here’s to doing what you love and a life worth living.