Life is full of ups and downs and a series of comebacks. During one particularly bad period in my life, my son told me something that lifted me out of a low and taught me something which has led to many comebacks. 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 childhood memories.”
If I’d had to guess, I would have never picked that event to be anyone’s favorite memory. It was not winning the science fair. It was not our trip to Barcelona. It was not the praise he received after screening his first amateur claymation. It was a routine task that he and I did together. It was an event that was quickly fading from my memory.
The event he made reference to occurred 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 ran 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 for hotel guests and required a room key to gain access. We waited until a hotel guest walked up and tailgated into the laundry room. Then we devised 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 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. We were hunting for a laundromat. We were hunting for locations which looked like they might have 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 studying for a history test, he answered sample questions as if retelling a scene from a novel. 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 is the continuing recovery from 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, laid people off, or struggled through a sharp decline in business, 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 only seen the endgame, the journey 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 with fondness. One of their favorite memories may come from the Great Recession when you took them with you on a mundane task. A task that the two of you approached with a sense of adventure.
Business Development Director