It’s amazing how things in your life can have such a powerful impact on how you view the world and the way you live your life. Experiences shape us into who we are and I’m sure that continues to be the case as long as we’re on this earth. Or at least that continues to be my experience after 35 years of running around this place.
As I look back at the early years of my career, having just started Spunlogic (then NBN Designs) and working with Raj and Danny to get that business off the ground, those first two-three years were pretty…exciting. Surely there were the ups and downs that come along with running your own company, with the high’s being very high and the low’s being very low (I recall not being able to pay the water guy at our office one time and literally hiding behind my cube and telling whoever answered the office door to tell him that, “I’m not here”…#shady).
My wife and I were married during the second year of Spunlogic and she was ran a unit of adolescent boys at a residential treatment center/hospital in Atlanta. This is basically a place were kids are sent when they’re one step from ending up in jail, with the idea being that counseling and a lot of attention might be able to help them get their lives together before they become adults. It also stops them from causing harm to society as they are literally locked into this place, complete with security and barbed wire fences.
Each and every one of these kids have been abused in some way or another. Kids aren’t born being “bad”, and definitely not to the level that these kids are acting out. Anyone who is in this particular profession is a saint in my book.
Coming home each day after what I would think was a stressful day trying to stand a company up, I’d share with my wife the things that happened and she’d be interested and shocked right with me. Then I’d ask about her day.
She wouldn’t have to get through explaining more than the first hour or two of her day for me to realize that what I was perceiving as crazy important, stressful experiences at Spunlogic were really not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. I’d hear things like (and I’m making these up but any one of these could have been real):
“Today a 12 year-old boy was dropped off that set fire to his house because he didn’t want to go to school. He’s been here three times before and his uncle, who he lives with because he was abandoned when he was two, has decided to disown him.”
“We had to put one kid in lock down because he was throwing feces at everyone in our small group.”
“This black eye was from one of our kids that punched me in the face because I told him he wasn’t going to be able to use pencils for a week since he tried to stab his roommate.”
That last one was true.
How my wife, the saint, got up every day to go to work and experience these things I’ll never know. She worked there for many years, trying desperately to help these kids. I remember one time there were kids she was working with and she felt like she was making tremendous progress with them. She was off one weekend and she received a call from the hospital where she worked. Those two kids, the ones she had been telling me about how excited she was about their progress, had escaped from the hospital and went to a neighborhood across the street. They held a man hostage in his home for many hours, then forced him to drive them out of town in his car. It was days later that they caught the kids, several states away.
One of the kids was the legal age to go to prison – he had just turned 17 – and so he went. To prison. With grown male adults. This broke my wife’s heart.
I feel incredibly blessed to both be married to such an amazing person and also to have shared these experiences with her, if only from afar. Since then, I’ve tried hard to put my life in perspective when I feel like things aren’t going the way I would like them to go.
If you’re reading this blog, then you’re better off than 95% of the world. Maybe 99%. Think about it. You have eyes that work. You can read. You have a computer or access to one. You have internet access. You have a great life.
Shake the bad stuff off, put it in perspective, and I promise you’ll enjoy life a whole lot more. I do.