Opportunity and Hope
“You must not surrender. You may or may not get there, but just know that you’re qualified and hold on and hold out. We must never surrender…Keep hope alive.”
— Jesse Jackson, “Keep Hope Alive” speech at the Democratic National Convention (7/19/88)
I have a friend. Let’s call him X. He is one of my oldest and dearest friends and we are still very close.
X has struggled mightily with his decisions over the past few years. He used to have a great career and was happily married with 4 children. At least that’s how it seemed at the time.
15 years ago he owned his own mortgage brokerage business, made a ton of money, and lived in a palatial house. He also owned multiple investment properties. He was, by most accounts, living the dream and a true self-made success story.
One day, it all turned completely upside down. Quietly he had been struggling with a drug addiction and had been hiding it from his wife. He was also not quite as liquid as he had hoped. The housing market downturn did not help things. Neither did the costs and stress of raising four children. He sold off all of their properties, most at a loss. What should have been a perfect life wound up unraveling.
He and his wife lived separately a while and he tried to get his life in order. They eventually moved back in together and tried it again. He sold his business to substantially downsize his career and actively reduce his stress levels. They even moved to another part of the country for a fresh start. Nothing seemed to work and finally they called it quits. The divide between the two of them had become too much. He moved out, she kept the house and the kids stayed with her. Some days the kids don’t want anything to do with him. Those are the tough days.
The end, right? Not always…
These days he works in roofing. He is smart and has already risen to management. It’s a long ways away from his previous life but I admire him just as much if not more. He has had to swallow his pride many times while searching for jobs. The mortgage industry, once white-hot, is now very different than it was a decade and a half ago. He doesn’t seem to fit into it anymore nor does he wish to.
He and I stay in touch regularly. We text, email and even chat every so often. Sometimes it’s about sports, other times just family stuff. Some days he is upbeat, other days I can tell are tough. Sometimes I just wish I could just reach through the phone and put an arm around his shoulders. He needs it.
X stands for many things to me, but most importantly he is a link to another time and place when we were both young and full of endless optimism. He is as much a part of me and I am of him.
Most would say his story is a cautionary tale of losing site of what is most important in life. Perhaps. It’s easy to pass judgement on others when they are down; we are all very good at it. But life is grey, it’s never black and white.
His journey is one of the highest highs and the lowest lows, many of which were self-imposed. But he has not given up and he has always tried to keep moving forward.
Maybe this is an example of squandered opportunity. I prefer to think of it instead as simply opportunity. Opportunity to reinvent, opportunity to rebuild and opportunity to overcome while never giving up hope.