Scott talks about what it is like to turn 60...Is it a happy Birthday?
Today is my 60th Birthday.
Hurray I made it past another year!
My wife sweetly woke me up and wished me a very happy 60th birthday. I shrugged it off as if it were just another day. She told me that it was a milestone to be 60 as it was no ordinary birthday. I kind of agreed with her thinking maybe she really meant a millstone instead of a milestone. (Laughter not required…but necessary).
I was driving to my daughter’s house today in Highlands Ranch Colorado to meet her at one of my favorite coffee shops…Starbucks. It is about a 40 minute drive from my home in Northwest Denver.
On my way I began to reflect on a little of my life. Kind of did a quick life review of sorts. It was interesting to me to recount the years and the memories associated with the years. Most of them have been relatively happy years I feel. Some of them were not as happy, but as now they seemed as a dream to me that has mostly faded away.
Life is interesting to say the least. So many possibilities as well as so many liabilities too. So many twists and turns like a well written novel happen to all of us. Some sweet and some bittersweet.
One thing we can all reflect on is the fact that we have all had many experiences. Some we might have wished they were different than they were. Others, we would not have traded them for the world, as they were invaluable to us.
What makes the difference between the valuable and the not so valuable experiences we had? I think it is just a matter of personal perception and how we internalized each experience.
Some of my most memorable experiences were actually some of the ones that seemed most negative to me at the time. I will recount some of them for you…see if you might have had some similar or perhaps dissimilar experiences of your own.
One that really stands out to me is when Sharon and I were first engaged to be married, some Thirty Nine years ago. It was my first job as a married man and I worked for a friend whose dad owned a manufacturing plant in Englewood, Colorado.
I was in an assembly line, assembling products for the company. You probably would have laughed knowing me that I am all thumbs when it comes to assembling or fixing anything. In fact, my beautiful wife has to do most the fixing in my home, or I have to hire it out, as I am clueless on fixing anything. Usually, when I try to fix something, I break it instead.
Anyway, I was not very productive, let’s say, on the assembly line. The shop foreman was always frustrated at my output and he told me I had to pick it up or else. I knew that the or else meant I could lose my job. The harder I tried the worse it got for me.
Finally the friend who got me the job came down to see me at the assembly line and invited me up to his office to chat. He told me that I was not cutting it in the assembly line and asked if I could be reassigned to the shipping department as they had an immediate need for another shipping clerk.
I accepted, and for a few months learned all about shipping and receiving of all kinds of manufactured items. I loved the new position because it did not require so much hand dexterity as I needed in assembly work. I was very happy with the new position.
Sharon and I were married February 18th, 1972. We went on a very short honeymoon as money was tight those days. We spent a couple of days at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and a couple of days in a small cabin in the mountains. It was a lot of fun.
When I returned to work everything had changed. I noticed the shipping department looked different, and there was a guy there that introduced himself as head of logistics for the company. I did not even know what that word meant, but I soon found out my position had changed…radically. In fact, I was out of a job.
My friend called me up to his office and told me that the company was going through a major overhauling and that they had felt they needed this new person to head up the logistics department as he had the experience to take their company into a system of shipping, receiving that we, meaning me, could not do.
He kindly said that I was to start looking for other work, but that he would give me a couple of weeks to find something else. He actually told me I could be on the clock and still make income as I was interviewing for other positions outside the company.
About this time, you begin to wonder about things like; I just got married and have a wife to support…I have no formal education, what kind of work can I do without any formal education?
I was scared to death. A gloom and doom came over me that quite frankly, appalled me, and took me by surprise. I felt like a victim at this point. I even had thoughts of blaming God for this experience.
I was not a happy camper at this point. I thought my life at that time was over. I took the layoff very hard, and personally. I was in mourning over its loss. I moved from being angry, to sad, to helpless. To make it worse, I had just purchased my first new car along with the mortgage payments associated.
I told myself I would never be a salesman like my dad. He travelled all over the United States as an Insurance sales trainer and manager for a large insurance company. I did not want that lifestyle…or so I thought.
One day another friend of mine said that he had an opening at his company, a local paper and packaging company in Denver, Colorado. I asked him about it and he told me it was straight commission sales. That means, what you sell is how you eat. That was scary to me, but I was desperate, or so I thought, and interviewed for the job.
I actually sold myself into the position with the sales manager and he hired me…after I came back the second time to ask him for the job. I got the job and it was rocky for a few months, but I applied myself and became one of the top salespeople in the company…so started my career in sales.
Sales seemed to fit me well for most of my career and I am mostly happy for the experience. It enabled me to do a lot of things that I might not have been able to do as an assembly worker or a shipping/receiving clerk.
It was a blessing in disguise as I look back on it.
Another milestone (or millstone) however you want to perceive it came when I was 56 years old and had my own mortgage finance company. I always had a desire to work for myself and it was quite the experience too.
I made a good living, but it was bell to bell for me pretty much Monday thru Saturday for me six days a week, and twelve to fourteen hours a day. I was not complaining as I had never made that kind of money in my life…then something happened that caused me a lot of physical pain. I fell down my two story homes stairs and tore the tendon off my kneecap in an instant…I was in huge pain and misery.
I had played sports most of my life…Football, baseball, even wrestled, and never broke a bone or had a major injury…now in my mid 50’s I was crippled and underwent major surgery to reattach that major tendon.
Fortunately this happened in December and my business normally slowed down a little during the holiday season approaching. I was laid up for approximately three months—allocated to my master bedroom as I could hardly move my knee without a lot of pain. Slowly, but surely, I finally could hobble to the bathroom with a walker and could start to see clients again with crutches.
I was a goer and a doer and this injury was doin a number on my psyche. Thoughts of bankruptcy and going out of business frequented my thoughts. I began to think of other injured people differently now.
Before, if I saw an older person in front of me who was hobbling, or was walking, or as I would say, creeping along, I would tell my wife that if I ever walked like that… “Just shoot me.”
Well, the worm had turned, and now I was in the crippled position. All of a sudden I perceived others with disabilities with more compassion and consideration…Now I was one of them…at least for a few months.
Looking back at this life altering experience caused me to think differently about life. Maybe I wouldn’t live forever after all? Until you have an injury like this or an incident where your life races before your eyes, you think you are immortal and perhaps invincible.
This experience caused me to re-think my life, and to slow down a bit. I remember one Aha moment I had when I was relegated to run my business from my master bedroom while in bed. I had my laptop computer, my cell phone and my remote control so I could watch television to make the time go by faster.
I was really frustrated one day, because of my incapacity and voiced my frustration to my lovely and very smart wife. I said to her… “Why aren’t the phones ringing?” She resolutely retorted… “What would you do if the phones were ringing?”
It then dawned on me that I had no control over this situation and I was helpless to make it different. It was one of the best things I could hear…it caused me to realize that not always do we have the luxury of changing things.
It was this event, as tragic as it seemed, that opened me up to re-think what I was doing with my life. It caused me to shift my thoughts and to change.
It was because of this physical event I found myself recreating my life again. I began to rethink everything about life. Even the things that I thought I should not think about, I thought about and questioned. Was everything I was taught as a child…was it right, wrong—indifferent? It seemed that no thought or belief was now sacred to me.
I would think about things differently. Was I in the right business? Did my working twelve to fourteen hour days, six days a week really serve me, or was it killing me? Was life or God trying to tell me to slow down and smell the roses for the first time in my life?
Yes, my life was starting to fall apart in some way, yet, I began to release myself to the unknown and the unpredictable. I no longer felt in control anymore. I released myself as a child falling into the arms of its father who was calling for it to jump. “I’ll catch you”…I heard God tell me… “I will not let you fall.”
This precipitated another event where the mortgage business in general began to collapse and fall. Subprime lending was at the throat of it and it affected my business greatly. In fact I had to exit it after trying my best to salvage the situation the best I could.
It forced me into personal bankruptcy and the stigma of being a business failure. It was a tough experience to say the least. Another one I thought I could not endure…I thought it would ruin me professionally and that I might not ever recover from it at my age.
Low and behold…I am still here…still kickin. I did not die and life keeps going on. I have had to readapt though and this has been precarious at times. I am currently unemployed and hoping to connect with employment again in the near future.
Maybe some of these events have struck a note with you and you can look back and see the seeming failures in your life like I have…a redirection of thought, beliefs, and experiences.
In conclusion, I want to say that I still have my lovely wife of 38 + years supporting me and by my side, and my three wonderful children and four wonderful and smart grandchildren around me that give me joy every day.
I want to say that if it all ended today…on my 60th birthday, I like Lou Gehrig would have to say that… “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
D. Scott Arant