Let me go off the premise that today really is our last day on Earth. While never an ounce of my being has believed this to be the case, I do think it provides an ideal catalyst to deep reflection about our lives and what is important to us.
The year 2012 could have been my last year on Earth. For many people, 2012 was their last year on Earth. For some, it was just their time to go and for others, they went too soon. The major question I’m asking myself tonight is: If I knew 2012 would be my last year, would I have changed anything? Would I have tried to do something more?
A Perfect Union
Approaching 2012 in chronological order just doesn’t seem right. The most important day of my young life happened on May 5th, 2012 aboard a cruise ship called the Carnival Paradise. On that day and on that ship, I married my best friend. People say that a lot, but the truth is that my relationship with my wife began more than 11 years ago, and indeed, it started out as a great friendship. Over the next 10 years, we leaned on each other through life’s daily struggles, and while some say we waited too long to tie the knot, we would say we did it at just the right time – and we did it our way.
The wedding was everything we had hoped for years ago when we would talk about what our wedding would be like. It was an ideal wedding for the introverts that some describe us to be – with only about 30 in attendance – but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We had most of our closest family members and friends there – it was perfect.
We spent the next five days celebrating our union with our closest friends and family members. Again, it truly couldn’t have been better. Fond memories were made, and at the end of the day that’s what life is all about. That’s what will be important to you on your last day. Not how much money you made or the stuff you bought with it, but the memories that you get to take with you forever.
Moving forward from that day, I’ve become more and more excited about our future together. We’re making plans now that we’ve previously never seriously discussed, and I couldn’t be more delighted about the direction we’re heading. (More on that later in this entry)
Health and Weight Loss
This year, I got to watch my wife-to-be lose 60 pounds between January and May before our wedding. Her weight is something she has struggled with for much of her adult life, but she decided one day that she had had enough and that she was going to do something about it. I watched her transform in front of my eyes – it was truly amazing. I’ve told her this before, but she has been and always will be beautiful to me, but the change in her attitude and her confidence throughout this ordeal was really something to behold. She came out of her shell in ways I hadn’t seen since I first met her, and my favorite thing to do with her during this time was take her to the store to buy new clothes and see the happiness in her eyes when she would fit into sizes she hasn’t worn since high school. She is a lot stronger than she would ever give herself credit for.
About August, we decided to start biking. We thought it would be a good, healthy activity for us to do together. So we went and bought a couple bikes and a bike rack for the car, and proceeded to put hundreds of miles on the bikes before the weather started to turn cold. I had even found myself down to my goal weight for a brief while before drifting back up a bit. We instantly enjoyed biking – starting at the bike trail in Cedar Rapids and riding out to my parents’ house in Ely, or going the other direction up through the Hiawatha area. We even biked at night a couple times. We’re looking forward to next bike season!
The “At-Home” Reception
We held a small reception at the end of September for all our friends and family members who couldn’t attend the wedding. The stress leading up to this was even more than the wedding! We actually had people taking care of most details relating to our wedding, but the reception was almost totally organized by us. It was great to see all of our friends and family that we don’t get to see often. Ashley and I were happy, though, to finally close the book on our wedding process. The reception really gave us that closure.
In October, Ashley and I went to Las Vegas so I could attend a Utility Finance seminar. It was actually a blast on both counts. I really enjoyed the seminar and I enjoyed booking it out of there at 4 oclock every day and hitting the strip. We were only there for a few days, but it was constant activity the whole time – the way Vegas should be done! We mostly walked around and checked out a lot of the exhibits and shopping, and just overall sight-seeing. Ate at a few cool restaurants, met some interesting folks on the bus each day, checked out the Pawn Stars pawn shop (underwhelming, actually) and just about burned through our shoes with all the walking.
“The Test Results”
I won’t get too deep into this, but there is a genetic disorder that Ashley was potentially a carrier of called Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia. This is something that has run in her family that they have learned a lot more about just in the last 20 years or so. While Ashley showed no symptoms of the disorder (as oftentimes carriers don’t), there was the chance that any children we had would have the disorder. The symptoms range in type and severity, but the most common are the lack of (or dysfunction of) sweat glands, missing teeth, thin hair with little or no pigment, among others. Ashley’s brother actually has the disorder and spent a lot of his young life ill and often struggled with not being able to do some of the things other young boys were doing for fear of getting overheated causing hyperthermia.
While we hadn’t discussed it at length, Ashley and I always knew our first step before considering having children would be to get herself tested for this genetic disorder. Since the test itself is very expensive (thousands of dollars), we had decided to put it off for a few years as we weren’t ready to have kids yet anyway.
This fall, Ashley was contacted by an organization that provides funding to Ectodermal Dysplasia research, notifying her that she was a potential candidate to get this genetic testing done for free as part of a “40 Women Strong” program where they were going to pay for 40 women to have the test. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity.
Much to our excitement, the tests came back a few weeks later and were negative! Ashley’s genes show no sign of the disorder. The conversations Ashley and I had in the weeks and months since her test results have been very exciting.
Starting our Family
Ashley and I had been privately discussing (previous to her test results) the idea of perhaps not having children at all, or having them much later in life. The looming test results that were potentially devastating to the prospects of us having children made us somewhat pessimistic about the idea, but once the test results came back we suddenly had an entirely new outlook.
With all that said, Ashley and I hope to be officially starting our family late 2013. No, we are not pregnant now, nor are we planning to be in the next six months. We’ve laid out some things we would like to accomplish first (financially as well as physically with our fitness goals), and overall we want to let the idea sink in for a while as we prepare ourselves emotionally for what’s to come. Ultimately, our plan is to be pregnant by about this time next year (perhaps a little earlier or later, of course). So, there you have it. Not sure what else to say, as this isn’t some grand “we’re pregnant” kind of announcement, but the significance of this to Ashley and myself is huge since we have been on the fence for years about having children at all.
In Case the World Doesn’t End Tomorrow
If the world did end tomorrow, I have no regrets. 2012 has actually been the best year of my life, so if I cease to exist tomorrow then I’ll at least know that I went out in one heck of a year and I got to see plenty of the people I love most before it all ended.
The reality is that we’ll all still be here tomorrow, so what have I learned from this reflection?
- Nothing will ever be more important to me than family. I learned that at my wedding. Circumstance has unfortunately separated me from many of the people I love, but your family bends over backwards to support you at important times in your life. I’m happiest when I’m surrounded by my loving family. As I embark on the next stage in my life and my marriage, I aim to never forget that.
- I want to be remembered as a good person. Whenever it is my time, I want people to remember me as a good guy who took good care of his family and helped others when he was able. I want my future kids to see their father as someone to idolize and emulate – a guy with integrity and good morals. I know I won’t be remembered as a perfect individual, nor could anybody, but I want to leave my footprint on this world in a positive way. Every choice I ever make in my life, I want it to reflect this goal.
- Money spent on memories is never wasted money. When I take my last breaths, I’m not going to be thinking about how nice the cars were that I owned or the houses I bought or the big-screen TVs I enjoyed. I’ll be thinking about my wedding vacation. I’ll be thinking about my trip to Disney with my family in 2009 when Orlando, Florida set a record for weekly rainfall. I’ll be thinking of all the great times I’ll spend with my kids. These are the things that are truly important. A camera and a camcorder might be the most important things I carry with me for the rest of my life.
- Always take time to step back and look at the big picture. It’s easy to get stuck in the daily grind, but it’s also easy to call a time-out and reflect on what’s truly going on in my world and really take stock of what I’m all about (and whether I’m happy about that).
- Go all out. If I’m going to do something, I’d might as well do it up good. Don’t leave anything on the table. That goes with my job, my family, my hobbies, and everything in-between.
Ultimately, every year past is a year closer to your last. This is why we choose this time of year to discuss New Year’s Resolutions – we want to make sure each year is not just another wasted year. This year rather than resolutions, I’ve made it a point to understand that concept. I didn’t waste this year, and I definitely won’t waste the next one.
This year I celebrate the end of a very important year in my life, with the full realization that the excitement is only beginning. The next couple years may very well be the most important, complicated, and exciting years of my life and I plan to approach it with an eager and unwavering enthusiasm. I’m thankful to have my loving wife and our amazing family to be with us and support us every step of the way.