Pictured above: Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota – I attended the 125th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre.
Ilearned quickly that it is a whole lot easier to forgive others than yourself. That was certainly true for me. My dreams were bottled up for an entire adult life. Forgiveness, for me, meant starting over. That required a complete reboot of my professional life. After three decades of swimming with the sharks in a sea of cubicles I simply switched off my autopilot work life and buzzed the corporate tower (Bldg. 100). I sent a letter to the president on how to improve the company, then resigned. I was 56.
My last day in the office felt natural. I told no one what I was about to do. Not even HR or my wife. I didn’t know myself until I reached down for my Star Trek mug and noticed my motocross racing photo. Forty years ago I was a teenager with big dreams.
Back then I wanted to be like my boyhood idol – the seven time world motocross champion Roger DeCoster.
But my true life-long passion was revealed to me much earlier. When I was a baby, the moment I reached into my diapers and pulled out a fist full of shit. I was living my dream job the instant I spread my best stuff on the wall next to my baby crib. Which I soon discovered was the craft of writing. Today, I use a laptop. There is little difference really.
“Do you want to do this?” I asked myself aloud. Spun around a few times in my swivel chair then flung my legs out to slow the rotation. I took a deep breath, got up, and walked out.
It was time to do something else. And I knew what that something was.
I would pick up where I left off shortly after college. Write novels and screenplays. That was my plan before I got a “real job” working for a Fortune 500 company. As the decades rolled by I realized I was on a similar life track my daughters are on now. We were busy preparing for our departure point. Theirs was college; mine was early retirement. Both meant freedom and a lifetime of challenges during the time we have left.
Breaking free of my comfortable, predictable life. That to me is my new Life in the rear view.
First Things First: Exorcise Demons!
After leaving work I needed to purge some demons. I purchased a used 2008 Harley-Davidson Sportster, then embarked on a five-month modification project that turned that sweet ride into an even sweeter cafe-style dirt tracker. A not-so-legal road classic that makes boomers do a double-take and hipsters weep.
Then I stole a page from my great grandfather, Elmer. He was 21 when he left his home in San Diego to ride his 1911 “F-Head” Harley-Davidson on dirt roads to his new college home at the University of Oregon.
I road my Harley up the coast highway to honor his memory. A man who risked everything to become a cotton farmer. When the Colorado river repeatedly flooded his property, he raised up his shack-like cabin on wooden stilts and carried on.
I began writing a memoir using Dropping Out Before Dropping Dead as the working title. I took my daughters with me to Wounded Knee for the 125th anniversary of the final conflict of the Indian Wars. We stood together at the mass burial site on a hill that overlooked the massacre of women, children, elderly, and unarmed men. Our government awarded Medals of Honor to those who participated in the slaughter. I grew up hearing stories from my mother of the great chiefs and indigenous people. Our visit to Wounded Knee was a spiritual journey I will never forget.
I finally forgave myself for settling on a career that failed to serve my soul. I know, that sounds ungrateful. After all, I was able to provide for my family during my corporate tenure. The gems of my life, my daughters, provided me with riches beyond imagination. I consider them as my singular success.
I’m not that deep or complicated. A writer who likes to ride motorcycles. As long as my fingers and feet stay busy, I’m good.
So, I will write and ride for as long as my ass can handle the saddle. And I will set my laptop down at the window seat of the local coffee shop. And when I get up each morning I hope to be a better father, friend, and man than I was the day before.