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The Power of Choice

The Power of Choice

May 09, 2022

So, here I am at 3am.  Sleep has been hard to find the last few nights for no particular reason. I build a fire in the fireplace and stare into the growing warmth on a frozen night. I wonder about sleep and how it can be a fickle thing. I suppose I’m just going the way of many others before me. Generally speaking, you need less (and get less) sleep as you age.  

I’ve been an ardent sleeper all my life, going to bed early and often taking naps on weekends. I come from a long line of good sleepers. My dad used to nap on the couch when the Cubs were playing on Sunday afternoons. He would have the game on TV and be soundly sleeping on the couch for a good 45 minutes before we kids worked up the courage to sneak over and change the TV channel. Without even opening his eyes, he’d say “Turn it back. I’m watching the Cubs game.” I chuckle to myself as I think about those types of stories.  

I poke the fire, and my mind drifts away to more important things. It seems the middle of the night is when your mind is empty enough to turn to those weightier issues of life.  How am I doing at raising my kids? It is a question that haunts me from time to time.  Just this week, I had someone tell me that he admired the way I was raising my kids. I didn’t know anyone was watching! It was a wonderful compliment, but it was from a newlywed, so what do they know?  Heck, what do I know? Parenting is a bit like the blind leading the blind. 

This comment made me realize that we have incredible freedom in our choices. My wife Abby and I have made a plethora of choices to create a growing up experience for our kids that we really value. I hope they will value it someday too, but as of now the jury is still out. They don’t have anything to compare it to yet.

On our first (blind) date, Abby told me that she really wanted to stay at home with her children someday. That is pretty forthright on a first date, but at least I knew what I was getting into. That had some pretty big financial ramifications for our marriage that forced lots of choices.  We have always chosen to live near work to minimize commuting time.  Another key choice was to unplug the TV.   At the time, we had 2 kids, and our second would throw a tremendous fit every time we shut the TV off after Sesame Street.  Eventually Abby just unplugged the TV and told the kids it was broken.  A week later we moved it into the basement.  A week after that, we donated it. That was a pretty severe move, but over time we realized we didn’t miss it much.   

I must admit that the TV came back into the house later, but in a different capacity. It currently sits on a rolling stand that we keep in our closet. We roll it out for family movie nights or sporting events. It is a high-tech affair complete with rabbit ears and an honest-to-goodness VCR/DVD player. The kids think I’m a bit like Doc, the eccentric scientist in ‘Back to the Future.’

The fire is growing low, and my mind continues to drift on the power of choices. One of our family’s favorite quotes comes from Dumbledore, the wise old sage in the Harry Potter books. “It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  In this day and age, and particularly in this country, we really do have the power and freedom to create the future we desire. 

Oftentimes, these choices are intertwined with time and money. Money comes and goes throughout our life, and there always seems to be ways to get more of it. But the unrenewable resource is time. They certainly aren’t making any more of that!  Our work at Compass is at the intersection of all of these forces. It places us alongside our clients as they wrestle with making their own choices. It is a wonderful and fearful place. In closing, I just want to lift up what important place choice has in our lives.   And as the aforementioned Doc says in great wisdom, “Your future is what you make of it, Marty!”