A storm blew out the power in our neighborhood last night and blew up my evening routine that includes grinding coffee beans and prepping my Bialetti coffee pot for the next day. The power came on sometime during the night, but the damage was done and I was regulated to a Starbucks Via packet this morning.
The water boiled, I poured in the packet and took a sip. That sip brought me back to 2014 in Dallas, TX.
It was then I was working at Blend Labs, spending week after week in Dallas (Lewisville actually…) configuring software and running the implementation for our first lending client. Over one stretch, I traveled to Lewisville eight out of nine weeks – on the Monday 5:30am American flight from SMF to DFW and back home again on a Wednesday or Thursday night flight, and occasionally on Friday.
I squeezed in 30-minute workouts in the shoebox hotel gym with its three treadmills and rack of dumbbells, doing rehab exercises from knee surgery, followed by late nights logging bugs and testing configuration changes as the engineers back in San Francisco pushed code every hour. I couldn’t even go for a run because of my knee.
At some point close to midnight, I’d call it a day and wake up again at 5 or 6am to start the next day – chewing through Silly Putty hard-boiled eggs and cardboard bacon, and scrounging for an apple, a banana or anything resembling fresh fruit.
And of course, the hotel coffee. Oh yes… That’s where the Starbucks Via came in. I’d buy a 12-pack of those and travel with them, at least 3-4 in my bag at all times. Every morning, I’d add a packet to a cup of the hotel “coffee” so it might remotely resemble real coffee. Then out of the lobby, trying to remember what color my rental car was this trip and heading back to the client site for ten hours in a brown cubicle and fluorescent lights.
Meanwhile during my Lewisville time warp, Lena was back home, waking up every morning to take Benjamin to day care, work on her dissertation, pick him up, make dinner and get him to bed so that she could get in a few hours before he woke up for his night feeding, then to start it all over again the next morning.
Even during weeks I wasn’t on the road, I commuted to San Francisco three days a week, catching the 4:45am Amtrak and arriving home on the 7:07pm. On Friday nights, we’d meet out for dinner, pretending to catch up on time lost that week.
I remember the first time my son was sick, really sick. I saw a series of texts and missed calls from Lena just as I was walking into a BW3 Wild Wings to meet my team for dinner. A croupy cough and breathing troubles led to a trip to the ER. After a call to American, I was stuck in Dallas – no more flights home that night. So there I was, in Lewisville, Texas, eating a bad salad and bland chicken wings, feeling helpless.
By Christmas 2014, I decided that was enough – the travel, the late nights staring at my computer screen, missing time at home. I needed to make a change. By May 2015, I began working with Byron Davis as a business coach. He helped me structure my thinking around the business and life I wanted to have.
By August, I joined a mastermind group called BlackBelt and I put in my notice to Blend that it was time for me to spend more time at home.
Lena finished her PhD at the end of September and my first day as a full-time business operator was October 1, 2015. I always joked with her that I would retire as soon as she finished, and I did. I retired from working for other people. I retired from absence.
Now, I’m home most mornings to make breakfast and take my son to school. I do the dishes at night and go to bed by 9pm. I’m a regular at the local coffee shop. I make time to train during the day and I’ve knocked out a 50-mile ultra marathon, a swim across Lake Tahoe and Uberman in the past 15 months. I write every morning. I have awesome clients.
I have problems and challenges just like everyone, but they’re my problems in my company. Mornings are almost always a battle – getting Benjamin to eat, dress, and agree to part ways for the day at school drop-off. But, I’m here. Every day. I’m present.
This is my path of happiness. This is my life of freedom.
All in one sip of coffee this morning.
I’m sure glad for that storm last night.