I turned 33 yesterday. Over the last year and a half, I’ve experienced a handful of impactful moments. They were more life-changing than I was willing to recognize. Adding up, they gradually affected me in ways that I didn’t fully acknowledge…that is, until one of my best friends brought it up.
He told me a couple months ago that I was disengaging myself from conversations and experiences in a way that was becoming unhealthy. And that my behavior had grown more frequent during 2018. He told me that I was becoming detached.
At the time, I agreed that he was right but didn’t think much effort was needed on my end to change course. Admittedly, I am prone to responding to situations in a matter-of-fact way, and continuing on with my life without taking the time to stop and examine the effect things have on me.
A few more weeks passed, and he brought it up again in a more serious manner. This time I took note. I took his observation to heart, and decided that I needed to work my way back on course. First things first, I had to look back on all those accumulated moments and accept them as life-shifting. So let’s rewind and take a look at those moments in chronological order, beginning about a year and a half ago-
I broke off a 2.5 year relationship. There were no hard feelings and no ill will. She was an amazing person with a contagious free spirit, and I loved her. However, I eventually came to terms with the fact that I had grown distant and lost my belief that we were ultimately right for each other. It’s certainly not easy to let a significant other go – particularly the older you get. The expectations, level of sacrifice, and societal pressures are all seemingly heightened. In the end, it took a lot out of me to break someone’s heart knowing that it was the best for both of us.
About 2 months after I became single, I decided it was time to finally live solo and move out of the DC rowhouse that I own. For 9 straight years, I lived with 3 housemates at a time. In total, I lived with 22 different people during those years. Holy…shit! That doesn’t even include college when I lived with roommates every year. When I look back on this, it’s crazy for me to even think how I managed living with a revolving door for so long. I was extremely fortunate in that 17 of those 22 were fine housemates, with most of them becoming friends or acquaintances that I enjoyed hanging out with.
While I naturally feed off other peoples’ energy, deciding to live on my own allowed me a chance to unlock the introverted times that I desperately needed. It provided me the opportunity to avoid distractions and to work through my life, my thoughts, and my emotions on my own terms and in my own space. Nevertheless, it was still a massive transition for me after several years and I still have lonely moments hit me every once in a while.
Right after I moved into my own place, my Mother began experiencing chronic, debilitating pains in her gastrointestinal system. When I visited her over Thanksgiving, she was in so much pain she could hardly get out of bed. Amazingly, she still made her way to a brunch or dinner that I would treat her to. Additionally, she made the trip to DC to visit me for Christmas and managed to not put up a fuss when I dragged her around the city for 4 days. Deep down, I still knew she was bone tired and dealing with tremendous internal pain.
When I visited her for her birthday a couple months later, she was unable to get out of bed that entire weekend. She felt terrible about being lethargic and not having the energy to do stuff with me, but it was time to come to grips with the fact that I needed to operate on her terms from then on. She has sacrificed more for me than I will ever fathom, so it’s the least I could do. While she eventually had surgeries this past summer to help with the gastrointestinal pain, another long-term health issue of hers weighed heavily on me.
As 2017 winded down, I decided to significantly cut back on the number of weddings I would plan in 2018. I was burnt out. I was demotivated. I was fortunate to excel and build a reputable name for myself in such a quick timeframe, but I sacrificed so many evenings, weekends, and fun outings over the years in order to do so. I knew that I wasn’t going to do weddings forever, and I wanted to have more free time to enjoy other aspects of my life. So I did exactly that, by designating myself to just 5 weddings in 2018. Ones that I really, and truly, had an interest in being a part of. This was a major cutback to what I had grown accustomed to, and when you’re fortunate enough to plan luxury weddings there were certainly moments when I felt like I was giving up on something that I strived so hard to build.
During this same time, I led the way on selling the beach condo that my brother and I co-owned after my Father’s death. We had it for 7 years at that point, and it was time to part ways with it. It was essentially breaking even on rental income, and I knew my brother wanted the capital since he was in the process of going through a divorce (oh yeah, go ahead and tack that onto the list of curveballs, albeit not a direct one).
Unfortunately this didn’t come easy. A tenant moved into the unit below ours several months prior, and she smoked cigarettes INSIDE every day (who the hell even does that anymore…especially when you have an outdoor porch to use?!). The cigarette smoke found its way into our unit on a daily basis, and caused a permanent odor to stick on the walls, flooring, furniture, ventilation, and God knows what else. It was only fixable through renovations that my brother and I had no interest in dealing with. I asked the tenant a couple times to please stop smoking inside – even for just the few weeks while our unit was listed on the market. She did not care one bit. I despised that selfish bitch so much. Still do. Unfortunately there’s no recourse or by-laws against a tenant who does this, so I was at a lost cause. I had to suck it up and sell our unit well below market value. The last tangible connection I had with my Father…I essentially gave away. Imagine how that would make you feel?
New Year’s Eve approached, and while I was celebrating with friends in Nashville that night my Grandmother passed away (read my blog – “Loss, With Love”
). My final remaining grandparent was now gone. Thankfully I made the effort to go to West Virginia to see her about a year prior. But damn, I knew this was just going to be another emotional blow to my Mother who was already dealing with enough health issues. So what else could ensue to make it worse?
Well, one of her brothers evolved into a complete piece of shit over the years and mismanaged my Grandmother’s assets while squandering away everything that my Mother was entitled to in her will. What was going to serve as a small nest egg to help my Mother during her retired years got completely wiped away thanks to him. I tried to be there as best I could for my Mother during those months while she processed how to respond to the situation. It was certainly difficult.
Soon after I sold the beach condo, I began the process of selling out of the first restaurant that I was a partner in, The Prospect. During the first 2 years it was undoubtedly the best sports bar in DC. I was extremely proud to be a part of it. The energy there was amazing, the food and service was consistent, and I really enjoyed the staff. It was my first foray investing in the restaurant world. My friends all loved it, and I thought it would become a staple on U St. But during its third year, things started to flounder and the level of service degraded. DC’s restaurant and bar scene is far too competitive for an establishment to have a negative trend, even for just a couple months.
I tried my best to infuse ideas to the ownership group to help turn things around, but as a minority investor it wasn’t my duty to handle the operations and I knew there were other variables that were outside of my control. Given how great The Prospect began, it felt like such a failure to see how things ended. At the end of the day, I decided it was best to sell my share and accept the hit on my balance sheet. It was time to move on and learn from it.
After I got back from a long Euro trip this past summer, I found out that my Mother was diagnosed with Stage IV Cirrhosis. She had previously been diagnosed with NASH – nonalcoholic steatohepatitis – which progressed to cirrhosis. This weighed heavily on me over the next couple months. Knowing the long-term uncertainty involved, I let it get the best of me at times. While I could repeat how I felt, you should just read my blog – “Momma’s Boy”
So what’s the result of all these things?
Well, I started going through the motions of life with a lack of vivacity. If I presumed that I wasn’t going to receive any value from someone, or something, then I would hardly entertain it (if at all). More things appeared to be a waste of time to me, and my patience was becoming shorter. My words were less interesting, my mind was less involved, and my interest in things was muted.
My exchanges with friends, with women, or with acquaintances became less enthusiastic. I found myself listening through one ear, and letting the words fly out the other. My responses were almost pre-selected. My sexual encounters became more transactional, and any desire to connect at a deeper level diminished for me – even just to graduate to a mere fling rather than a one-night stand. Shit, even to just have a follow-up conversation. I was keeping other people at arm’s length.
Most importantly, my ability to fully appreciate the present had changed. This is H-U-G-E. That has always been my number one motto to live by: Time is our most valuable resource, so make the most of the moment. Sure enough, I was becoming less adept at this. I was failing to follow my own damn advice. Yikes.
Recently, I’ve made an effort to be more personable with people. To listen just a little bit more. To ask questions. To make time for others, even if I’m not gaining much out of it. To ask how someone’s day went, and to make sure I hear their response. To be more open with women. To share my feelings. To reconnect with an old acquaintance. To look around and pay attention. To simply embrace what’s going on…right now.
While it’s a gradual process to recalibrate, I am making the conscious decision to put forth the energy to become better. I guess you could say I’m reattaching myself at 33.