Today, as we decorate our Christmas tree and home for the holidays, I reflect on what has been an absolutely amazing year. I thought last year was good; this one was better. Through all the trials (literally) and tribulations, I made it through. I came out on the other side and am better for it.
This past year, my life may have seemed easy to those on the outside looking in, but to me, it was one of the toughest of my life. My work life was terrible, given the abuse at work that was thrown my way, unnecessarily. My home life was upended, by moving twice and being in a rental, albeit in a nice neighborhood that wasn’t too noisy, as well as just general upsetting events throughout the year, no different than those that were had by most people, I’m sure. It was a trying time to be me. Yes, I did some amazingly fun and first-time things, but I also had to put up with a lot of grief to get there.
Once, a long time ago, I watched one of those VH-1 specials on AC/DC. A lot of people had given them a hard time, claiming they worshipped Satan because they sang a song titled Highway to Hell. For people who never saw that show or never heard the actual story, let me explain what I remember. The rock music industry is not for the faint hearted. While you may believe that the glamour and glory are truly wonderful and highly sought-after, you may not understand what it takes to get there. Hard work. Perserverance. Lots of sleepless nights in a van, because you can’t afford to sleep anywhere else. Drugs, alcohol, and lots of people wanting your next dollar. Hands out. New BFFs around every corner, even though those people have never even sent you a Christmas card. It’s not easy. And, in the end, the “dream” of being a rock musician isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be. More hard work. Time away from family and friends. Fights. Women who want you for your glory but don’t love you or care about you. The list goes on and on.
The song was not, as some of the Tipper Gore followers believe, about Satan at all. It was about the glory of becoming a rock star, and the “reward” waiting at the end. That reward, not as you’d hoped, in other words. Truly the highway to hell – with hell being the end product – people pulling at you every day, never being able to go for a cup of coffee without being mobbed, and autograph requests every time you turn around. There are those who feed off that attention, and those who don’t. For those, the end product of all their hard work is nothing that they would ever really want.
For me, my job had become somewhat like that. Oh, it sounded great. It was “fun”. Some told me that they would love to have my job, and that it would be the best thing ever. Those closest to me knew the truth. It was not fun, most of the time, and it certainly was something I would not wish on anyone. I had worked hard, sacrificed a lot, and stayed through projects, feeling a sense of integrity and obligation to see them through, even though I’d had several other job offers along the way. I stayed, sometimes thinking that that was all I was capable of doing. Some thought I’d never leave.
But, like so many of the dogs that my new bosses rescue every year, they rescued me, in a way. That’s the way I feel on this sentimental weekend, anyway. Some would say that I’m doing more harm than good, being an attorney, but I definitely disagree There are people who celebrated their first Thanksgiving with their new child this year, because of me. There are women and men who can go on with the rest of their lives, away from mean or cheating ex-spouses, because of my work. There are others who get to spend a holiday out of jail, because of my work. It is an amazing feeling to help someone when they need your help. They come to us, scared, nervous, and unsure of the future. We give them their futures back. Someone did that for me about 10 years ago, and I’ll be forever greatful. “You don’t have to put up with this,” is what he said that cold evening in Kansas City, Missouri. I’ll never forget it. It changed my life.
This year, I’m thankful for so many things. I have a great job that I love. I am lucky enough to spend my life with the love of my life in my Sweetie. I have a great kid who is growing up to be a wonderful man, so unlike his father, thankfully. I have a great stepdaughter who is a senior this year, taking care of her own business and working while finishing up school. Her future is bright.
And, for the first time in a lot of years, mine is as well. Thank you to all of you, you know who you are, who helped me get there. It was not an easy journey. But, escaping my own private hell was the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time. I cried so much at the decision, scared of the future. I cannot imagine what I would feel like, if I’d turned it down. I won’t.