By this time, I am in my late twenties. My marriage has just barely survived. I have three children under ten years old. I am now a senior engineer at the company I work for, and I have a side business that is circling the drain.
I had put in the hours at work, successfully completed a re-architecture of our system, and the company seemed to be making money hand over fist. However, I was felt like I was being taken advantage of (and I was). The exact same thing had started with my side business.
I had started a small tech company (at night) with a colleague in an attempt to break free of the daily grind. In hindsight this was not the right move and would only make the grind that much worse. Fortunately (or unfortunately) that simply did not work out. To keep the long story short, my partner was not interested in the day-to-day building of the business, only the technical aspects of the product. The product was good but with nothing behind it, it was doomed to failure. With only so many hours in the day, I could not float that boat by myself.
On top of all of this, my marriage was barely making it out alive. We were getting to a good place, but my marriage was not the #1 priority in my life up until then, and neither was Jesus. My priorities were all backwards and I wanted out. However, I could see no way out. I had no other marketable skills and my career was a gilded cage. It was just lucrative enough to make replacing my salary improbable.
At this point I think I was in a major depression of some sort, and so was my wife. To her credit, she was a saint through all of this. She was incredibly gracious to me. It was only due to her strong walk with Jesus that we stayed together at that time. At this point in my life, I was smoking two packs of cigarettes every day and was about 75 pounds over-weight. I was in terrible shape. I felt like I was just fading away inside. The angst and frustration was turning bitter and putrid inside me.
My daughter was in fourth or fifth grade at this point. She was friends with a girl from her class that lived nearby, and over the year or so, her father and I had become friends. This girl’s father was also a wild-land fire-fighter.
One night we were all at a school function and found ourselves standing around on the field behind the school. We started talking about our work and I was describing my frustrations. He began telling me about wild-land fire-fighting and how he had aspirations to make the city department. I had an admiring look in my eye as he told me of his work. We talked about the brutal working conditions and the danger, but we also talked of the difference he was making. The homes he helped protect. The wild-fires he had helped stop. I realized that his work had meaning to him because it was benefitting communities, it had lasting impact. I expressed my admiration for him and my jealousy for his satisfaction in a toungue-in-cheek sort of way. This man has an aw-shucks sort of demeanor about him. In his way, he smiled and scratched his head and laughed and said “You know, maybe you should try out for the service. You could do it if you really wanted to.”
For the briefest of moments, my mind reeled. I considered the possibility of becoming a wild-land fire fighter, honing my craft and taming that roaring demon: holding the line to save the homes and livelihoods of the citizenry. My breath hitched in my throat as the light faded from my eyes and I remembered the realities of my situation. I’m fat, I smoke, I’m out of breath, I’m under mountains of crushing debt, and I’m on the down-hill slide to middle-age….
I died a little bit more on the inside. Right there on the field where so many dreams take flight. I shuffled back to my soul-crushing grind to choke on the bitter pill that I felt my life had become. I had made it that way. I was reaping what I had sown.