On another blog, a challenge was issued to think back through your life, and record the big game-changers. The moments or events, or decisions that brought you to who and where you are, with a focus especially on the positives. Here's my list. I could probably make a second one of the 'Family Game Changers' and I could make a third list of the negative choices, but I'm trying to keep it positive. Some of these were heartbreaking at the time, but lead to positive outcomes...
#1. Being in awe as a kid with Jacques Cousteau and his voyages and discoveries - he was a strange role model, but I began to research and realize in about grade 5 that he was really a normal guy and anyone could have great adventures.
#2. In around Grade 6 doing a class field trip to a local nature centre, and writing down turn-by-turn the route the bus took, then retracing the route a week later on my bike. This was my first time sneaking out of the house and my first 'expedition' that I put together on my own. I remember calling my Mom from the nature centre and her freaking out about where I was (it was a good 20km from home)
#3. Taking the Junior Leadership course in Cadets when I was around 15. Its hard to explain to people who haven't been through it, but this course basically destroys every facet of who you think you are, then forces the kids to rebuild their self image from the ground up - add to the stresses of the course that I was one of the unpopular kids, and you have a helluva tough summer that transitioned me from saying "I can't." to "How can I?"
#4 - At 19 serving a Mormon mission. I am not supportive of the church now. At all. But this experience forced me to question the faith and see through the veneer of "Do it for Jesus" to how a church-business operates. It also fine-tuned my bullshit meter to hyper-sensitive, and gave me an opportunity to develop some really strong persuasion/public speaking skills. I remember sitting on the balcony of our apartment in Dallas GA and mapping out where I wanted my life to be at 20-40-60 yrs ahead. I still reference those notes.
#5 - At 23 - My first child's birth. The incredible weight of responsibility, pure love, and fear that mixed in the room that day was palpable. I have had more confidence and more understanding with the kids that followed, but my first child was an incredible rush of emotion when she was born - mostly because I was so unprepared. I still am, so is she. We're all growing together.
#6 - At 25 - My first divorce. Two things came of this - always have a plan b, and nothing is forever. Even the idea of anything being 'once-in-a-lifetime" is laughable to me. Also, you can't be in control of everything, least of all the decisions of another person. I made a lot of mistakes in that relationship, and likely the biggest was to not see the goals of my partner as being as important as my own. I work hard in my current marriage to make sure this doesn't happen again.
#7. - At 27 - Returning to school for Architecture, and coming out with a Civil/Transportation diploma. Nothing has been as large of a game changer as making the conscious decision to chart my course back to school and into a professional career. It was where I met my wife, where I took control of my destiny, and where I excelled for the first time. In the 4 years I was in school there were a lot of 'out-there' achievements that I won't detail here, except to say that I really did some awesome things in those years, while raising a kid, holding a mortgage, and maintaining an honours average, and building a relationship with SWMBO.
#8. Waiting 8 years to marry my wife. It was a long wait, but she stuck it out. And when we did marry, we were firmly set in our relationship, had a good community around us, and were familiar to family. We had an incredible wedding, and our marriage is strong, even if it has rough spots from time to time.
#9. Deciding to give up my dream home in the country for a nice house in the city, and engineering both of our careers to be within walking/biking distance of the office. It’s amazing working so close to home, and is something I have never experienced since leaving grade school.
#10 Going on strike - Last year we were out on strike, and quickly discovered who our friends were and who was like-minded to us. We also got to see just how fragile our household economics were. That lead us to some changes in lifestyle, and eventually to frugal living and saving. Currently we are working hard at building wealth.
The most critical thing I have found is that as long as you are making controlled, conscious decisions and not just going with whatever is easy, then you are going in the right direction.
I'd love to see others' lists. What in your life made you a better person, and how?