Life is full of ups and downs. During one particularly bad period in my life, my son told me something that lifted me out of that low and something that will stick with me forever. He said, “Do you remember that time up in Seattle when we played Stratego in the back of that SUV? That is one of my favorite memories from my childhood.”
If I’d had to guess, I would have never picked that event as one that stood out as being special. It was not winning the science fair. It was not our trip to Barcelona. It was not the thunderous applause he received after screening his first amateur clay-mation. It was a routine task that he and I did together. It was an event that was quickly fading from my memory.
The time he made reference to was actually during a business trip I made to Redmond to visit Microsoft. I brought my family with me as a makeshift vacation. They found things to do during the day while I was in meetings. About halfway through the trip, we were running low on clean clothes. My son and I gathered a trash bag of dirty laundry and set off to find a laundromat. That was not easy, as the area around Microsoft is fairly affluent.
We found a laundry room facing the parking lot of an inexpensive hotel. The facility was intended to be used by guests and required a room key to gain access. We waited until a hotel guest walked up to the door, then we tailgated into the laundry room. We then figured out a way to gain access back into the room by propping the door open just a little…but not enough to attract attention.
Then we went back to the rental car, an SUV. We folded the back seats forward, lowered the tailgate and played a couple of games of Stratego while the laundry washed and dried.
To me, the evening had been about washing clothes. To my son, the evening had been about playing Stratego with his dad.
When you are 9 years old, one-on-one with a significant adult can be special. However, I think what made this event stand out in my son’s mind was the sense of adventure. He’d seen his mom wash clothes many times at home. This time, he and his dad were on a hunt, looking for a laundromat. We were hunting for locations which looked likely for a laundromat. My son had never been aware of laundromats, much less the fact that there are certain locations where they were more likely to be found. Once we found one, gaining access into the laundry room was a whole new game of strategy…with some mystery and stealth …and a tiny bit of danger (in the mind of a 9 year old).
To cap it all off, we played his favorite board game in yet another unusual location; the back of a really cool SUV.
I’d known this kid for 9 years and knew the joy he could bring to every situation. He saw life as an adventure. A speed bump in the parking lot just had to be walked across like a balance beam. When weeding the yard, a gust of wind would take him airborne and send him bounding to anything a few feet off the ground. At the grocery store, toy guns would materialize in his hands as he would leap around corners and shoot storm troopers.
I knew, that night in Redmond, that we were on an adventure together …hunting for the laundromat, gaining access, playing his favorite board game …but over the years, the grind of adult living had reduced the memory to simply washing laundry. For me….but not for him. He still remembered the adventure and treasured it.
So here we are, in what we hope are the declining months of the Great Recession. We have weathered something that economist predict will be discussed for years to come. For those of us who lost our jobs, we have participated in a piece of world history. It did not feel much like history. It felt painful, demoralizing, frightening and humbling. Some of us have learned new skills, obtained new certifications and branched out in new directions. I have been forced w-a-y out of my comfort zone and taken on things I would have never done if I’d remained comfortably employed. I am banking on the fact that I am now much better suited to the new economy than my friends who spent the last two years doing what they have always done.
In the middle of this struggle, however, I have not forgotten the lesson I learned from my son. I am embracing this change with a sense of adventure. It has made this trying time easier to manage. It has helped me remain constructive in my attack on the problems and not despairing. It has also helped me to remain positive and even upbeat. I think I will look back on this time and say, “Yes, that hurt, but it was a game changer. If I could have seen the endgame, it would have been exciting.”
I hope that you can find your path through your current situation. You may discover that one of your loved ones will point back to this time and say that one of their favorite memories occurred when you were out of work and took them with you on a mundane task that the two of you approached with a sense of adventure.
Business Development Director