Reflecting on these moments in life has been cool for me. Even though I’m breezing through decades, omitting a lot of the details and nuance, the overall picture makes sense. It’s not one of those obvious pictures like Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci, more like Basquiat where all these crazy, chaotic segments come together to make a perfectly, imperfect picture. Each pane of this mural of life has been a mixture of calm and chaos, and the decade between 30 and 40 is no different. Lucky for me, there is significantly less chaos these days.
New Beginnings, Again
Upon leaving the Air Force I was a new dad, searching for jobs. Some friends were worried or confused why I’d leave the security of the military with only 9 years remaining until I could retire. Without seeing the preparation or desire I had to succeed, their doubts were warranted. Outwardly, I’m calm 95% of the time, the rest of the time I’m in traffic with moronic drivers. Inwardly, I do a lot of research, a lot of thinking, and a lot of planning. I think of various angles to most of the things I do, then I proceed as if I’m going to reach my goals no matter what. I don’t listen to motivational speakers or practice giving myself compliments in the mirror. I see flaws as an opportunity to improve, and I’m thankful for the things that are not flawed yet.
I took a job in San Antonio for a short period of time and I learned a very valuable lesson in kindness as well as a valuable lesson in the civilian job world, they care a lot less. I moved to the DMV area for a job, and I lived with my sister for a few weeks. I left my wife and daughter behind. Though that wasn’t an easy decision, it was part of a plan to get them to move to the DMV area as well. The military initially disagreed with this plan and gave her an assignment to Missouri. There were no job options for me there so I decided to work as a contractor in Afghanistan for a year, to save money and pursue whatever jobs they had in Missouri. The week before I was slated to leave, they changed her assignment to Virginia, but I was already committed to leaving.
I spent a little over a year in Afghanistan, and the goals I had for the money I was making kept me from quitting every month. I survived a couple car bombings, but no sniper fire moments. I say this casually because I survived, but there were people I knew that didn’t. Losing people wasn’t new to me, and since these weren’t people I grew up with, it didn’t really impact me much. Not to mention, as a contractor at a deployed location, there is a lot of animosity. I get it, I was making a lot more than the military people I was embedded with, but there are so many elements of that big picture that they don’t understand. It’s not as pretty as it seems for sure.
Time for another sidebar moment. The hub to get to Afghanistan was in Dubai. It’s a long, but direct flight from Dulles to Dubai International and my goodness, if you’ve never been, it’s a beautiful airport. There isn’t one airport in the U.S. that is nicer than that one…or at least terminals 1 & 3, terminal 2 is on par with what we have. That aside, I got to the hotel after this 14-hour flight, tired and hungry. I dropped my bags off and went back down to get something to eat, I asked the gentleman in the lobby which was the better food option, he assured me the bar was the spot. I go into the bar and there are pretty women everywhere. I walk up to the bartender and ordered some food to go. One of the ladies approached me and sparked up a very flirty conversation. She asked if I wanted company, I said nah, then went to my room, devoured my food, and went to sleep. The next day, I went down to for lunch, same thing but different women. I declined their company and chalked it up to “I still got it”. My supervisor in Afghanistan was going on vacation, in conversation he said “at least I know I’ll be getting some in a couple days”. I laughed at this idea until he told me all the hotels in Dubai have prostitutes working in the bars. In that moment, I went back to questioning whether I still got it.
And We’re Back
While there, I wrote up several draft business plans and included my friends in the process. My homie and current business partner saw the vision and ran with getting things set up. We just needed an opportunity. That opportunity came the following year in 2013. We started up our consulting firm and everything was going fine for 2 months. Then we had a government shutdown which forced us to dip into our savings just to survive. We were learning these lessons by trial and error for 18 months. We learned how dirty the industry could be thanks to bad teaming agreements. We also found out that salaries should not be based on our bleeding hearts. We hired someone and paid them $30K more than they were previously making, for the same job, with nearly no profit to us.
Also in this time, we bought our first home and had the pleasure to renovate it. My wife was only there for a year and half before she got orders to leave. For multiple reasons, I decided I wouldn’t join her on this move so, we made the decision that since my days were more predictable, I’d keep our daughter for a while. That short while became 5 years, but this period may need its own topic as well because a lot happened, and my life as a single dad was significantly easier than that of single moms and I have theories for this. That was also 5 out of 10 years. To summarize though, I fulfilled a couple dreams. The company grew significantly in those 5 years from 3 people to 38, I was able to hire my brother on for a while, I bought my dad a car, I even got a few toys for myself, I bought a dog, sold the first home, bought another home and that brings us to 39 years of age.
Defining My Purpose
Since turning 39, a whole lot has happened, but not much at the same time. I turned 39 three weeks before the nation went to COVID lockdown. Roughly 3.5 weeks earlier Kobe Bryant and his daughter died in a helicopter crash. That put life into perspective for me, and I began to think more of legacy than checking boxes. In that time, we sold one home and bought another. My wife and I are in the same place for a change. I’m still working to grow the company but working from home inspired me to do a little bit more with my free time. That, and I don’t really know many people where I live now. I bought some recording equipment to continue making music as a hobby around the same time I got the wild idea to start this blog. Six months after, I am about to release an album in May, and if you’re reading this post toward the end of June, you now know I wrote it in April, Easter morning to be specific.
Now that you have an idea of who I am, you can craft plenty of reasons to explain “why I’m like this” when reading my thoughts. To be fair, the experiences themselves don’t fully tell the story of why I interpret things the way I do, but it’s a good start. Hell, I don’t even know why I think the way I do. This period of my life I am focused on self-discovery and passing whatever worthwhile information I have on. For me, life is about the experience of living, and doing something positive with that experience. Unfortunately, for most of us this experience is fleeting and often ignored due to living in a constant state of survival. I have been fortunate enough to experience some relatively low, lows, and high, highs. From that, whatever it is that makes up the essence of who I am, inspires me to share my stories, my thoughts, and my life with you.
It’s nice to get to know you better, Doug. And thank you for your service. When I say that, I truly mean it.
Thank you. My time in the service was pretty cool, I definitely gained more than I gave, but I understand.