"THERE IS NO PASSION TO BE FOUND PLAYING SMALL- IN SETTLING FOR A LIFE THAT IS LESS THAN THE ONE YOU ARE CAPABLE OF LIVING."
― Nelson Mandela
Born just outside of Boston towards the end of the period that defines the "Baby Boom" generation, I grew up with traditional middle class values. Most of my grandparents were first generation Americans with humble beginnings. My paternal grandfather left formal education behind in the eighth grade and went to work in a leather tannery where he spent most of his working life. Years later when he sent his first son (and my father) off to college I think he was as proud of himself as he was of his son. But because these family "successes" were still new, they were fragile. Somehow I came to understand that risk was something to be avoided and safety was to be found in the path they walked.
As I grew up in the 1960's and 70's, I was thirsty for knowledge of the world beyond my window. Nothing would make me happier than to spend an afternoon with my grandparents' set of Compton's encyclopedias from the 1930's. I would pore over every page, my imagination taking me on all sorts of adventures. For birthdays and holidays I would always ask for more books, more music and more art supplies. In school, I studied multiple languages in anticipation of a life of travel. I also enjoyed spending time with older people and eagerly listened to stories of their lives and accomplishments.
The oil crisis during the latter part of the seventies put a severe economic strain on the country and also dampened my dreams. Instead of going away to school, my further education was to be found at the nearby state college where my language program was cancelled after the first year. I also spent much of this time working in a grocery store to earn money which served to make me somewhat self-sufficient and garnered me a small sense of freedom.
When college ended and I was awarded a degree in Business Education, I succumbed to my own fear of risk and failure and embarked on a very "safe" and traditional path- a career in insurance and a marriage doomed to fail before it began.
Fifteen years later I found myself in a very unhappy relationship with three daughters who deserved something better. The ensuing divorce was acrimonious and took years to resolve. I found myself questioning how my life could have gone so wrong. What did I need to change about myself to produce a better outcome and enable me to be a better father and role model to my daughters? With some help, I was able to drill down and identify the work I needed to do. Self-esteem and confidence in my own inner dreams were key.
I would like to say that my situation resolved itself as easily as one might turn on a switch but that is not reality. What did happen though is that I discovered an inner strength to steer my own ship and become the master of my destiny. In the process, I surrounded myself with people who shared my interests and developing passions and met a man who ultimately became my partner and spouse. Eight years into our relationship we decided that our situation would become stronger if I changed careers and joined his interior design firm. With a huge leap of faith- on both our parts- I did exactly that. We now work on projects together around the country and beyond. Creativity and travel have become staples of our life. Together we wrote and published a book about my partner's passion for color and how he uses it to transform houses into homes. We have also become partners in a small Caribbean-themed fabric company which serves as another creative outlet.
As a father, I believe I am showing my daughters that happiness comes from pursuing your passion. One of my daughters has chosen a career in advertising and communications while the youngest recently started as a design assistant at our firm.
In future posts I plan to share some of our travel experiences, our design inspirations and once in a while a few serious thoughts about life.