I just got back from one of the most wonderful trips. I spent over a week in Naples with my family (minus Andy and Chris!) and Andrea (who was there for part of it). When I’m with my family, the rest of the world melts away. Nothing else matters. Work and school are unhappy encroachments on the precious, sacred moments that we have together. The reality-based part of my mind knows that work and school are imperative to life; necessary for survival, but the reality-based part of my mind also knows that family and friends and love trump ALL. It’s a dangerous thing when routine, work, and duty rule over the relationships that are at the very essence of our human-ness (is that a word? It should be!). My dad is a great example. He loves his work and is an integral part of the company, but he recognizes that people, your family, are who drive you. The reason he has worked very hard in his life, and NOT at the expense of his relationships, is primarily because of his family. He is driven to provide for all of us; to ensure that we have our needs covered. More importantly, however, he is driven to create bonds with us. He is there for every part of our lives, even though he has an important job and is successful. It doesn’t matter because at the end of the day, if you’re good to your family, they won’t fire you or lay you off or shut down business. Those are realities of the world, and if you bank it all in your work, when that work leaves, what do you have? One day, you’ll retire. Everyone does eventually. It’s nice to retire and know your family – they shouldn’t be phantoms that cross your path on the way to the bathroom in the morning. I feel sorry for people who are unable to define themselves outside of their work. It’s a bleak, lonely and unfulfilled existence. I’m so glad that my dad was able to properly rank the important parts of life. He has turned down career advancements that would reward him with much greater wealth in exchange for having his weekends free to play with us when we were young, and to spend time with my mom, so that she wouldn’t be a stranger one day when he retired. Commitment is at the core of integrity. The finest relationships are defined by commitment to one another, or to the group that is your family. Once a person is capable of achieving these fine attributes, then he or she is equipped to love fully and fairly. Only then should one become true friend to another capable of offering support and advice; a partner to another who is able to love, protect, and cherish that unique bond; a parent responsible for a helpless child’s perceived reality. I think that I am the luckiest person in the world.
These thoughts are all bearing on me in a new light since the passage of the last couple of months. I’ve had a newfound appreciation for the importance of a devotion to family. I’ve watched my entire extended family come together since my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. It’s not that we didn’t already care for one another or understand the importance of time spent with family, but the new urgency to create these lifelong memorable moments emerged in a powerful way. My entire life is comprised of important moments spent with these wonderful people; with my family. I feel so incredibly grateful for each of them. I have reflected on my good fortune after the past couple of weeks listening to my best friend lament about a lost love. A quick side note: I don’t think I merely have “good fortune” in my familial relationships and friendships. Rather, I think that I am surrounded by people who choose to care and to undertake the responsibilities necessary to create relationships that nurture and grow. Anyway, my friend recently lost her relationship. He boyfriend of eight months broke up with her. It was completely unexpected, and in fact, they had previously been planning on moving in together. Just days before the intended move, he decides that he doesn’t really want the life that he thought they would have. He thought that the love she “required” simply took too much time and effort. She wanted to share too much. She wanted to spend lazy weekend days with him and with the family that they would one day create. He unilaterally decided that he would be working diligently at a law firm in those fictional future weekends. He’s not even in his last year of law school yet. My best friend and I, nearly ready to graduate from law school, are uncertain of exactly where the next few years will lead us. Neither of us want to go into the typical law firm setting, and I think I will go in a real estate direction. My uncertainty is exciting, and one that I share with Mr. Parks to see where we want our lives to go together. My friend’s uncertainty, on the other hand, has caused her prior love to hesitate. He is unsure of what she will be like after law school; he doesn’t know if she is going to be happy. I mean, she could morph into an entirely different human (haha). Why would someone impose conditions on love? If there are conditions, then it’s not love. I know this from firsthand experience – from being the one who messed up and for loving the person who messed up. How does one “turn off” love in order to judge?