When I Was A King
As a young college student, I sometimes worried about my place in life. How was I going to earn a living and care for the needs of my family? What career path would I choose? Would I make the right choices in life? And would I be able to be successful enough in my chosen field to provide my family with the opportunities they would need to achieve their life-goals as well? These were questions that at times seemed daunting to me. Consequently, I could not imaging at such an early age how the pieces of one’s life successfully fall into place. But, as we all learn over time, miraculously they do.
Despite the fear and trepidation of youth, we all have that time in our lives when we are finally at the top of our game professionally… when maturity, experience, common sense and wisdom all come together and allow us to realize the outer limits of our intellectual capabilities. For me, this time came when I was in my early-to-mid thirties. All the theoretical constructs that I had learned about my chosen field of advertising during both my undergraduate and graduate years coupled with their subsequent application in the real and practical world of business had finally created a creature who was unashamedly self-confident (in truth, some might even say a bit too-cocky) and capable of making all the right decisions at a moment’s notice. Fortune and fame truly did worship at my feet!
Back then, I would attend industry functions and routinely walk away with three or four offers to further my career. And incredulously women really did “dance to capture my attention” despite knowing that my marital status at the time was decidedly and emphatically “married with children”. The power and the adulation however, even if feigned, was an opiate from which I knew one day I would have to retreat.
One of the misconceptions many of us have about life is that the good times will always be with us… that the money and good fortune will continue to roll in ad infinitum. In truth, it doesn’t. Remember one of the axioms expressed in This Time I’m Gonna Make It… nothing lasts forever. So enjoy the fruits of your labor while you can and put aside some of your financial and intellectual capital for the rainy day that is sure to arrive at its apportioned time. It always does.
Fortunately for me, I realized this truth early on in my life. For the love of me I cannot remember who was the depositor of that truth into my mind’s account. Perhaps it was more of a “feeling” I had. Better yet, maybe even a distrust of life per se. Whatever the source of this knowledge, it had become instinctively a part of my DNA. Thus, at the young age of 35, I thought about and planned for the day when I would no longer be at the top of my game professionally… when women would no longer dance to capture my attention and fortune and fame were distant, almost forgotten, memories.
It is difficult for some to understand how an individual’s self-identity and status in society are tied ever-so-closely with one’s work and achievements therein. Only once you walk away from all that you are professionally in order to experience more diverse interests and modest pursuits does this fact hit home. In this regard, my decision to live an eclectic, diverse life had many unanticipated twists and turns that provided me with several unique, interesting and rewarding experiences as well as cherished friendships along the way. But as I soon learned, without the normative social signals of work, title and status therein… people’s assessment of you is in part diminished and, to a large extent, even distorted.
Today as I walk the streets of Greenwich Village, I would sometimes notice the occasional older gentleman modestly dressed walking indistinguishably past me on the sidewalk and I would ask myself, “I wonder what stories he has to tell? Does his modest dress and demeanor today stand in stark contrast with a more opulant and accomplished past? Or have his fortunes in life been somewhat limited?” Either way, he (or she) is a fellow human being with an inherent dignity that demands both our love and respect. We all at one time or another, sat on the throne of our successes and enjoyed the view from above. Whether those successes were real or imagined… great or small… it matters not. Fortune and fame are fleeting. But in the eyes of our Creator, each of us is, and forever will be, a king.