I Wish That I Could Start Over

His name was Max. He was a 47 year-old single father who would sometimes bring his kids to the office. They would sit in the conference room and watch movies. Max was one of the new guys and I was told to show him the ropes. It didn’t matter that I was 27 and married for less than a month or that I had been with the company about three months longer than he had because I had seniority.

Seniority meant that I technically knew more and that he was obligated to watch, listen and learn from me or so our branch manager told him. I was too green to recognize that he was shoveling a load full of manure over both of us. Maybe Max knew, maybe he recognized that he was being shuffled off to go work with some kid and was smart enough to keep his mouth shut.  I really don’t know or at least I don’t remember him saying anything to me about that.

What I do remember is that he and climbed into my new Honda Accord and rode off into the wilderness to go sell copiers. It wasn’t what anyone with sense would call a great job. We spent hours walking up and down the street and visiting offices where we would try to convince the people there that they needed to spend a lot of money leasing a piece of equipment that would depreciate by 75% in a month. Ok, that might be an exaggeration but the point is that by the end of the lease the best offer they would get would be from us. At least that was the goal- sell them something that worked really well for a short period of time so that 24-36 months later you could provide them with credit for the new and improved version.

The first day that Max and I went out the thermometer outside the building said that it was 103. I was dressed in a black suit and armed with a twenty pound briefcase. Six hours and 3 miles later I had lost twenty pounds in water weight. We had secured a few leads but not as many as I would have liked. More than a few of the receptionists had taken pity on the sweat covered men and insisted on providing us with glasses of cold water.

Max asked me if it was true that I was going to the Olympics and I nodded my head in affirmation. When he asked for details I said very little and told him that I had won a regional sales contest. He congratulated me and told me that he was jealous. I said that there was no reason to be jealous and he shook his head. “If I was your age I could just start over.”

The words hung in the air. I didn’t know how to respond. So I went with the “you can always start over” and told him that all he had to do was try. He sighed deeply and told me that he wished it was so simple. He had too many responsibilities and that kept him from doing anything. I told him that I thought that he was wrong and he asked me what I would do if my wife stopped putting out, stopped talking to me, had a mortgage and kids. I laughed and told him that he painted a very pleasant picture of the future. He looked at me and said that I didn’t have a clue as to how life could push, pull and yank two people apart. Looked at me and said that I didn’t understand how you could love kids so fiercely that you would be willing to do almost anything to protect them from pain and said that I should call him in 15 years.

I didn’t say anything but my poker face gave betrayed me and he knew what I was thinking. “Jack, you only think you know about life but you don’t know dick yet.”

That was enough to elicit a response from me. I told him that I thought that it was sad that he would just give up without a fight and that I didn’t need to have kids to know about life. He looked at me and smiled, told me to call him again in a few years after friends had died and gotten divorced. I thanked him for being a ray of sunshine and said that while I couldn’t say for certain that all of my friends would stay together statistically speaking it was highly unlikely that any of my friends would die any time soon and really, it would probably be a while before anyone got divorced.

Fifteen years later five couples are no more and there are five fewer friends walking above ground. I guess that Max was right about a few things. In all fairness he wasn’t bitter all the time. He had a presence and personality to him and could tell a great joke. I learned a few tricks from him on how to make a proper presentation and I came to like his kids very much. I sometimes wonder what happened to Max but I really don’t have any way to find out.  You see, several months after he came on board he had a major heart attack and that was the last we saw of him.

To the best of my knowledge he didn’t die, but while he was recovering I got a new job and left the company. I can’t say that I have thought about him all that much, but I can say that when I have I always remembered that I promised not to be as bitter as he was. Even during the darkest hours I have always figured that they were just moments in time that would one day be nothing but specks in the past.

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Comments

  1.  nice story Jack. 

  2.  nice story Jack. 

  3. That was very powerful.  I wonder what happened to Max.  Maybe his heart attack was the catalyst for some sort of change in his life. 

    You were exactly as you were supposed to be back then.  Young and fresh, without the hardness of life breathing down your neck.  Could you imagine if people in their 20’s were like Max?  We’d be a very sad lot for sure.  Good post!

    • @0699956654d72f7ef717b298f2db2613:disqus  Young, fresh and incredibly naive. Of course I thought that I knew it all but I was so very wrong.
      Max is a mystery to me. I don’t know what made me think of him but I really haven’t a clue as to whether the heart attack “woke him” up or if nothing changed.

  4. Jottergirl says

    That was very powerful.  I wonder what happened to Max.  Maybe his heart attack was the catalyst for some sort of change in his life. 

    You were exactly as you were supposed to be back then.  Young and fresh, without the hardness of life breathing down your neck.  Could you imagine if people in their 20’s were like Max?  We’d be a very sad lot for sure.  Good post!

    • @0699956654d72f7ef717b298f2db2613:disqus  Young, fresh and incredibly naive. Of course I thought that I knew it all but I was so very wrong.
      Max is a mystery to me. I don’t know what made me think of him but I really haven’t a clue as to whether the heart attack “woke him” up or if nothing changed.

  5. I commented via the FB feed on this a few days ago, bc I read it on my phone, but I thought out this post all weekend.  It’s made me think a lot about myself,  my friends, and where I was when my peers first started getting hitched right out of college v. where we/they are now that I’m 35.  Most of the marriages represented by the  >50 weddings I attended in my 20s are still in tact…I think fewer than 10 are over.  I’ve been to a couple funerals, but no too many…a couple suicides and a couple cancer deaths. 

    I want to believe Max was wrong, and I do.  However, I’m sure he’s not as wrong as I would wish him to be.

  6. I commented via the FB feed on this a few days ago, bc I read it on my phone, but I thought out this post all weekend.  It’s made me think a lot about myself,  my friends, and where I was when my peers first started getting hitched right out of college v. where we/they are now that I’m 35.  Most of the marriages represented by the  >50 weddings I attended in my 20s are still in tact…I think fewer than 10 are over.  I’ve been to a couple funerals, but no too many…a couple suicides and a couple cancer deaths. 

    I want to believe Max was wrong, and I do.  However, I’m sure he’s not as wrong as I would wish him to be.

  7. Seattledad says

    Excellent story Jack.  I bet you could find Max on FB and write a follow up.  This is 2011 for God’s sake.  :) 

    • @ff82f50cbbf6bbfa1e32ec116f491472:disqus  Hey James,
      If only I could remember his last name I could look him up. I have been trying to pull it back out, but I just can’t come up with it.

  8. Seattledad says

    Excellent story Jack.  I bet you could find Max on FB and write a follow up.  This is 2011 for God’s sake.  :) 

    • @ff82f50cbbf6bbfa1e32ec116f491472:disqus  Hey James,
      If only I could remember his last name I could look him up. I have been trying to pull it back out, but I just can’t come up with it.

  9. Jack, That’s quite a story. Seems he gave you a gift – if you feel tempted to quit or be depressed, I bet you think of Max. It sounds like his bitterness and your experience with him has protected you from it. Funny how we meet certain people just to receive such a gift.
    Thanks for sharing it.
    Lori
    P.S. I have been seeing your comments all over the Blogosphere and I wanted to say how I admire that you don’t seem to be afraid to say just what you think.

    • @twitter-228904159:disqus  His bitterness made a big impression upon me. All these years later I remember it and the promise I made to never go down the same road he did.
      We all have our demons and mine have been living far too comfortably for much too long. But that hasn’t ever changed my mind that I’ll overcome the challenges that are placed before me.

      Sometimes you have to have faith in yourself.

      As for commenting, well I don’t care whether people agree with me or not. It would be nice, but that is unrealistic. I am interested in the journey and the only way to get that experience is to put yourself out there.

  10. Jack, That’s quite a story. Seems he gave you a gift – if you feel tempted to quit or be depressed, I bet you think of Max. It sounds like his bitterness and your experience with him has protected you from it. Funny how we meet certain people just to receive such a gift.
    Thanks for sharing it.
    Lori
    P.S. I have been seeing your comments all over the Blogosphere and I wanted to say how I admire that you don’t seem to be afraid to say just what you think.

    • @twitter-228904159:disqus  His bitterness made a big impression upon me. All these years later I remember it and the promise I made to never go down the same road he did.
      We all have our demons and mine have been living far too comfortably for much too long. But that hasn’t ever changed my mind that I’ll overcome the challenges that are placed before me.

      Sometimes you have to have faith in yourself.

      As for commenting, well I don’t care whether people agree with me or not. It would be nice, but that is unrealistic. I am interested in the journey and the only way to get that experience is to put yourself out there.

  11. While I kind of understand where Max is coming from about starting over, nobody ever said it was easy, just that you could.

    • @45eab661ca2e8b9f349f8194d995e043:disqus  No, starting over is hard which is why some people can’t do it. They don’t have the mental toughness to gut it out.

  12. While I kind of understand where Max is coming from about starting over, nobody ever said it was easy, just that you could.

    • @45eab661ca2e8b9f349f8194d995e043:disqus  No, starting over is hard which is why some people can’t do it. They don’t have the mental toughness to gut it out.

  13. Max lost the game years before he even worked with you. Maybe he gave up hope of life because he as afraid to really live. I have everything he has, but there is no way in hell I am going to lose this game. The reason is simple. I love it and enjoy it, even the curve balls that strike me out. It’s all about perception and Max was blinded by pessimism.

    Good post and great reminder to keep on living with a smile.

    • @brad_holland2:disqus  you are absolutely correct about his attitude. In the 15 years that have passed I have learned a lot about life that I really didn’t know then. Yet I still don’t completely understand how he became so bitter and entrenched in his belief that things would not improve.

  14. Max lost the game years before he even worked with you. Maybe he gave up hope of life because he as afraid to really live. I have everything he has, but there is no way in hell I am going to lose this game. The reason is simple. I love it and enjoy it, even the curve balls that strike me out. It’s all about perception and Max was blinded by pessimism.

    Good post and great reminder to keep on living with a smile.

    • @brad_holland2:disqus  you are absolutely correct about his attitude. In the 15 years that have passed I have learned a lot about life that I really didn’t know then. Yet I still don’t completely understand how he became so bitter and entrenched in his belief that things would not improve.

  15. StartYourNovel says

     I learned something here. Not sure what exactly, but I’ll be thinking about Max and your responses for a while.

  16. Anonymous says

     I learned something here. Not sure what exactly, but I’ll be thinking about Max and your responses for a while.

  17. This story has so many hit-in-the-heart points.  I remember a university prof sharing a little story about what life would look like many years after graduation.  How many of us would no longer be “walking above ground”, how some might be in jail, how some would be divorced, and on and on.  We didn’t believe him, of course.

    But what your post and his story showed is that some things we control; others we don’t.  And it’s the attitude we take towards that that makes all the difference in the world.  I think an athletic background (Jack, what sport? what Olympic games?) conditions us to believe all is possible, act with resiliency, bounce back from failure and disappointment, and always, always believe.

    Max is an example of one type of choice: you are another.  Let’s all remember that bitterness is of no value, and that the only moment we have is this one: make this one amazing.  

    • @kaarinadillabough:disqus  I never did make it into the pros in any sports nor did I compete in anything close to the Olympics. Although I have always believed that given time and training I could have gotten there for swimming.
      I suppose that is one question that will never be answered.

      Yet you are right about not succumbing to bitterness. I have had more than a few dark moments but I haven’t ever given up…completely.

      If anything I have sometimes had trouble accepting defeat. There is a time to let go and walk away.

      Overall I have long believed that force of will and extended effort is enough to get me where I am going.

      •  Jack, defeat is all a part of eventual victory, when lessons are learned, spine is straightened and shoulders broadened.  One day I will share my “phoenix from the ashes” story in full, because there were many days I could have chosen to feel defeated, but chose instead to, in your words, exert my “will and extended effort.” Cheers my friend:)  Kaarina

  18. This story has so many hit-in-the-heart points.  I remember a university prof sharing a little story about what life would look like many years after graduation.  How many of us would no longer be “walking above ground”, how some might be in jail, how some would be divorced, and on and on.  We didn’t believe him, of course.

    But what your post and his story showed is that some things we control; others we don’t.  And it’s the attitude we take towards that that makes all the difference in the world.  I think an athletic background (Jack, what sport? what Olympic games?) conditions us to believe all is possible, act with resiliency, bounce back from failure and disappointment, and always, always believe.

    Max is an example of one type of choice: you are another.  Let’s all remember that bitterness is of no value, and that the only moment we have is this one: make this one amazing.  

    • @kaarinadillabough:disqus  I never did make it into the pros in any sports nor did I compete in anything close to the Olympics. Although I have always believed that given time and training I could have gotten there for swimming.
      I suppose that is one question that will never be answered.

      Yet you are right about not succumbing to bitterness. I have had more than a few dark moments but I haven’t ever given up…completely.

      If anything I have sometimes had trouble accepting defeat. There is a time to let go and walk away.

      Overall I have long believed that force of will and extended effort is enough to get me where I am going.

      •  Jack, defeat is all a part of eventual victory, when lessons are learned, spine is straightened and shoulders broadened.  One day I will share my “phoenix from the ashes” story in full, because there were many days I could have chosen to feel defeated, but chose instead to, in your words, exert my “will and extended effort.” Cheers my friend:)  Kaarina

  19. God bless Max.

  20. God bless Max.

  21.  Oh man.  Great post!  Now I want to know what happened to Max!  This is how I felt after watching Fellowship of the Ring.  Awesome movie…but what happens next?!  

    Poor guy.  I know some people like him.  Glad you were able to gain something positive from his memory.

    • @d997df34603ee2e55023b86670222c41:disqus  The nice thing about Fellowship is that there were two more books to read. As of now there are no books nor posts written (yet) about Max. 😉

  22.  Oh man.  Great post!  Now I want to know what happened to Max!  This is how I felt after watching Fellowship of the Ring.  Awesome movie…but what happens next?!  

    Poor guy.  I know some people like him.  Glad you were able to gain something positive from his memory.

    • @d997df34603ee2e55023b86670222c41:disqus  The nice thing about Fellowship is that there were two more books to read. As of now there are no books nor posts written (yet) about Max. 😉

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