A Decade Later . . .

When I first had the thought to write this post, I went back through files trying to find something that showed the date I got laid off…my severance information, the letter I received when I was let go…anything to indicate the official day I was laid off from Arnold in 2008. I knew it was in October. I knew it was in the second half of the month. I just couldn’t pinpoint the date on the calendar.

Well, leave it to Facebook Memories to get you up to speed when your real-brain memories fail you. This is what it had to say to me today:

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That yesterday, October 30th, was the day isn’t point. The point is that a lot can happen in 10 years, and for me, it has. Some of it has been ground-breaking, life-altering stuff. And believe me when I tell you that most if it hasn’t been easy. Some of it happened over the slow drip of time, and it is only in looking back that I can see how I evolved between the ages of 36 and 46 in a way I couldn’t have noticed as the small evolutions added up day after day. But one thing is for sure, there’s very little I would change. Each thing led to the next thing that led to the next thing. And all of those things are who I am today. 

Let’s start with the big ones:

•I no longer work full-time for ad agencies, or as a salaried employee in any other industry. I still get offers to freelance from time to time. And in fact I just completed a gig in San Francisco last week. But by and large, my career is now as a production company owner, commercial director, and documentary filmmaker.

•We moved to Austin from Boston in 2011. The idea was that this was a more affordable place to take a risk on a career change, and by and large that has held true. Although the gap narrows significantly every year.

•I got divorced. Was this a result of getting laid off? Certainly not directly. But the day-to-day financial strains of someone trying to re-invent himself and pay for stuff at the same time certainly took its toll. I am still a huge advocate of my ex-wife and we have about as good a co-parenting relationship as any divorced couple can have. But it certainly hasn’t been easy.

•I made three films, “Lemonade,” “Lemonade: Detroit” and “365 Days: A Year in Happy Valley.” The last one finished in December of 2013…which tells you the toll filmmaking can take on a person. Each one of those topics spoke to me in a deep, personal way. They were each stories I couldn’t not tell. But they were also singularly focused at the expense of so much else in my life, that in order for me to do another one, it needs be a calling in the way that the others were. I recently stumbled on a subject that is doing that for me. But I’m not ready to announce it yet. Hopefully soon.

•I met the love of my life. She is a fellow filmmaker and entrepreneur and is an inspiration to literally thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of women and girls around the world. My kids love her and look up to her, just like I do. She’s blazing a path that leaves me awe-struck on the daily, and I can only hope to be a fraction of the guiding light for her that she is for me. 

Some subtle changes it’s taken me 10-years to understand:

•Money isn’t evil. How you earn it can be evil. How you spend it can be evil. But inherently, money has no moral assignment. Opening myself up to the notion that I deserve the freedoms money can provide has allowed me to start earning more of it. 

•Providing for your children can be a calling. I used to think that I had to be changing the world through my career in order to feel good about it. This led to some decisions that, in hindsight, may have been more selfish than altruistic. But when I set the personal boundary that I was not willing to trade in my parenting card for my career the way some artists do, I found a lot more peace in working on pay-the-bills kinds of projects and not fiery-burning-passion kinds of projects all the time. And besides, raising a couple of responsible, kind, educated children has a lot more potential to change the world than any documentary ever could. 

•My per-mile running time goes up by one minute per decade. In my 20’s, I ran a sub-8 mile over five miles. In my 30’s, it was a sub-9. Now I’m lucky if I run three miles in under 30 minutes.

As I mentioned above, there is very little I would change over the last 10 years. But very little doesn’t mean nothing. There are things I said over the course of my divorce that I wish I could take back, career decisions I made that part of me wishes could have gone in another direction, and lingering fears I wish I would have overcome by now. And I know there are one or two people I have wronged to whom I will continue to try to make amends. But that’s all just the business of being human.

Who knows what the next 10 years will bring. All I can say for sure is that they won’t be everything I planned for. And that’s perfect.


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