Saturday, September 06, 2014

It's really not about me at all

It is amazing how I've changed my stance on what my life is about so many times. When I was younger I wanted to swim through a sea of gold a la Scrooge McDuck because my bottom line was the bottom line. When 9/11 happened and I lost everything (job, tuition, future, intact family, mental stability and more), I became truly acquainted with the frailty of life and the fruitless pursuit of financial gains. I joined the military and saw that my version of having nothing differed greatly from many other people's versions. Everything we did was for others; and we do it for little pay comparatively to what we sacrifice. My mentality really became about giving back.

The pendulum swung back the other way, as pendulums often do, as my military years went on. I worked hard and harder. I learned more, helped more, did more, gave more and got nothing more in return. I felt "thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread" (to borrow words from Tolkein). After more than 15 years in a single industry, learning everything I could and preparing to move home I realized that I had a family to think about and I had turned my mind and skills into something worth more money than the measly pittance I was receiving. I started JayVig Media. I was an entrepreneur in charge of my own fate.

For the last 3 years I have been running this fledgling agency, and in earnest for the last 14 months. I work from my home. Linda and I are paying for a wedding worth more than my annual salary while in the military. We don't talk about the number usually and it's not important. What is important is that my company is barely off the ground and yet we can do it. We're fortunate. We have luxury vehicles, a TV in each room, new iPhones each year and basically do everything we want. We could have more, but the room I sit in to type this is my home office that I feel cramped in. Others in this very building use this same room as a bedroom for 2 children. My life is good.

My pendulum has come to rest in the middle. I want more things, of course, we all do. But amassing a fortune isn't important anymore. What I want, financially and materially, is all for a different reason. The success of my wealth is now measured by the opportunity it brings me to enjoy life with important people. Can I do things that make Linda smile? Can I buy things for my parents that they won't buy for themselves? Can I surprise friends and family along the way with tokens that show I think of them? Can we do things together in the limited time we have together in life? These things all cost money and that's what it's used for. We all splurge. I like my gadgets, but that's not what it's about, is it?

I started the fund for Tunnel to Towers earlier this year for several reasons. Reasons I'm not sure I made clear. 9/11/02 was the first anniversary of the day that changed my life for ever and my whole family was still reeling. It's all a blur. By 9/11/03 I was in Mississippi wearing camouflage. The same goes for 9/11/04 - 9/11/12. I healed on my own. I was under no care. I healed slowly and peeled the scab each year alone. I left a tremendous scar. 9/11/13 was just shy of 6 months being home and life was still upside down so it came and went.

This year was to be different. My dad reminded me of my own words just yesterday. “I was in the military and people think I was constantly in danger. I was a communications guy way in the rear. So many military people risk way more. Firefighters put themselves at risk every time they show up to work. I know the pain of that kind of loss. I can’t ease the pain of other families, but if I can help ease financial burdens even a little, then I’ve honored the memory of my uncle and his selflessness. Honestly, it’s the least I can do.”

I can't get back all the years I was away. I can't re-heal in a way is healthier for me. I can only go forward. Giving to others is how I do that. Helping people piece their lives back together with a few extra bucks in their pocket is one less thing for them to worry about. I can't fix what's wrong, but I can be part of the solution, at least.

I've been hitting people over the head with this Tunnel to Towers thing and it falls on deaf ears. I get nothing from it. I make no money. The t-shirts I'm making for donors who also walk, come out of my pocket. The difference from our goal of $5,000 to where we land will be made up from the profits of my company. This event costs me money, lots and lots of it. But it costs me less than what the loss of a loved one costs the families affected.

I've been everyone's help desk for computers, phones, cameras, TVs and everything else with a power cord and an on button and asked for nothing but clicking "like." I truly enjoy knowing helping. I'd be a full time philanthropist if my bankbook supported it. Of all the life changing journeys I've been on throughout my life the internal shift from "more for me" to "more for those who truly need it" has been the hardest and most rewarding.

If anyone has room to help me with this, I truly appreciate it. You cannot begin to imagine what this means to me. Aside from the cause that I firmly believe in, every dollar gives me strength. It lets me know that we haven't forgotten. That our attackers did not demoralize us. That our united front has not dissolved over 13 years. Every dollar beats the shit out of one more demon from all those Septembers ago. Every dollar helps me re-focus on the good and not the shit. Every dollar makes me just a little less angry at the people who caused so much hurt. So that's what I get out of all this. A donation helps fund projects for the wounded and it intangibly helps piece me back together again. I have a lot of catching up to do to after ignoring it for so long. I can't give into that feeling every September anymore.

To all who have given along the way, I owe you a debt of gratitude that I have no idea how to repay.