Boom. Crash. We’re OK! Work, Life and the Power of Connection
I arrived home a few minutes behind schedule one day because of torrential rain and having to navigate through traffic in downtown Minneapolis/St. Paul (fun, I know). As I wearily, but happily, make my way in the door I’m greeted by a smiling wife with tired eyes. She brushes my cheek with a kiss on her way out the door to her appointment (that she will probably be late to, because of me). She tells me dinner is in the oven and has 15 minutes left. As the door closes I hear, “I love you,” followed by something I couldn’t quite catch but sounding somewhat ominously like, “Good luck.”
I begin to turn and immediately receive a running head-butt hug to the groin by son number 1; 5 year old future pro wrestler, master tactician and expert negotiator, Mr. Boom. Boom looks up at me with a huge grin and points to his right, “Hi Dad! Look under there!” Expecting a catastrophe of the highest order I fearfully (and cautiously), let my eyes follow the finger of doom. While not catching sight of anything obviously destroyed of any particular value, I half stoop (again with caution) to glance as nonchalantly as I can under the dining room table while responding to Boom, “Under where?” “Ha! Dad, I made you say underwear!” Ugh, foiled again. I turn to give Boom a grin but he’s already gone at a dead sprint.
My eyes lift to follow Boom and catch son number 2; one year old and also future pro wrestler, the fearless, the relentless, Mr. Crash. Crash will be two years old in two weeks and is twenty nine pounds of pure animal fury. He is just finishing vaulting the now useless baby gate from the living room into the hallway. The sad, dilapidated piece of plastic is now nothing more than a remnant of days past, a mere delay to the inevitable. Visions of my view of the Berlin Wall in the days before children flash in my mind. Those visions now include an imaginary twenty foot tall Mr. Crash smashing it to rubble with a smile. I smile right back at him. Crash lands with surprising grace and his feet hit the floor already moving faster than his legs can carry him. Right towards me, pure joy in his eyes at seeing me. My eyes reflect joy right back to Crash, then in an instant start to change as realization spreads through my entire body. Crash is running to his Dada as fast as he can, and Boom is in the way. Directly in the way. At full speed. This is going to be bad.
Boom is looking over his shoulder and catches my horrified glance, his smile fading only slightly. Crash finally catches sight of Boom and my mind unravels the crisis as Crash casually adjusts his angle and moves ever so slightly to the right. But there is a nagging spark that won’t be dimmed and my feeling of dread once again rises from the ashes. Then it hits me…Crash doesn’t move for anybody. Crash braces but doesn’t slow, fearless in the face of danger and the boy twice his size. Boom. Crash.
The impact sends Boom to the opposite wall face first. Crash hits the closet door completely-parallel to the floor, taking it off the track. It tilts outward as if pondering its existence, held in place only by a broken spring and the grace of God. I haven’t even set down my laptop bag or taken off my shoes. Terror once again rises from parental instinct while my mind screams that I’ll have to fix that stupid door again. But Crash stirs. And Boom stirs. They lock eyes and smile. Boom says, “We’re OK!” I can’t help but smile too. Big deal. I’m already an expert closet door repair man anyway.
As the night progresses through a mountain of food, a few stories, a dozen hugs, approximately 8 tuck-ins and surprisingly little additional bloodshed, I begin to ponder about my day. I work at work, and I work at home. I think on my commute. Though they are completely different, where did one work stop and one begin? Or did they?
I consider myself successful, at least in the terms of being a father able to support his family on one income– so my wife could put her career on hold and stay home with Crash and Boom like she always wanted to do. I work hard, but not any harder than those around me every day. Certainly not any harder than my father who loaded 30,000 pounds of windows into box cars and semi-trailers every day and still had the energy to help our neighbor on his farm some evenings. My grandfather had to run the farm in Western Wisconsin starting at age 16 when his father died. There’s no way my life is harder than that. I came from fairly humble beginnings drinking unpasteurized milk right from the tank when I was no older than Boom.
Last week, I was in New York City for work and caught a game at Yankee Stadium and saw Times Square at midnight. How did I make it to this point? How did I get so lucky? What is the purpose to this thing called life? Or what is the secret to success? Deep thoughts for a weeknight.
And then it hit me right in the face, a thought came to me that I’ve never had before. My mind drifted to an old quote that says,
“The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.”
I suddenly and unexpectedly had found my gift. Connection. I survive and thrive on connection. What is it that Boom and Crash shared in that post collision grin? A connection! And then they shared that same bond with me. My life has up to this point been a continuous string of connections. I’ve found myself drawn into a career path that is quite literally the art of connecting people. What a wonderful realization! So my work life and home life blend. Big deal. Isn’t that truly the eventual outcome of a work-life balance?
If you find yourself in a job that you love, is it truly the job or the connection you have with the people with whom you spend your day? The same applies to a job you might not love. If you can find a company that has a culture of inclusion that allows you to make the most of your natural inclination to connect on a personal and professional level with those around you, then hang on to that job! If not, it may be time to move on whether the salary is great or not. Life is way too short to stay somewhere that you don’t feel valued or connected. So take the extra time to figure out if you are around the right individuals that help you feel fulfilled and connected. Maybe, just maybe, consider not skipping the happy hour you never attend or the group lunch where you always claim to be too busy. You may have everything you need in the people around you. Or not. But you most assuredly deserve to know. If you find that you don’t enjoy the activities of your job but DO enjoy the people with whom you work, then decide if you can focus on that positive aspect. It may finally make your daily grind worthwhile.
I thought I had a busy fulfilling life before my career and fatherhood. I’ve been to Kuwait just for fun to see a college friend. I’ve loved and lost. I’ve loved and won. I’ve had the best meal of my life after a freezing boat trip across a lake thousands of feet up in the Austrian Alps while visiting distant relatives. I’ve dined with millionaires and shared a bottle of wine with a homeless gentleman at 3 a.m. All of that was just practice…practice at what I was born to do. Mere child’s play when compared to a fulfilling career and being a husband and father, all at once. So if you’re not sure what you have, spend more time connecting. You may love what you find or you may take some lumps. Big Deal. Boom. Crash. We’re OK!