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Article of the month for June, 2003
Craig’s thoughts on living a meaningful life

By Craig Nathanson

    In this economy where a valued employee on Friday becomes a laid off and yesterday’s news on Monday, it’s critical to start preparing for a new vocational life which is more resilient and more fulfilling. I’ll be right there with you on your journey.

    My belief in what I am writing about started back when I was sixteen years old. Growing up with just my mother, I was very close to my grandfather who very sadly passed away when I was sixteen. As he lay in the bed the day before he died, I stood watching him, not knowing at the time that I would be the last person to see him alive. I loved my grandfather. When I was young, he came and watched me compete in track and field, took me to the ball games, cheered me on and was a true believer in me in whatever I choose to do. When my grandfather passed away, it was only a few years after retiring from a large company where he had worked for nearly 40 years. The company went out of business and therefore my grandfather lost his pension and any retirement benefits he had hoped for.

    So after 40 years of dedication, this loyalty was never to be repaid. I remember when grandpa was turning close to sixty; he would get up six days a week, take the bus downtown and work in a back office building trophies. This was to have been his retirement golden years; instead he was forced to work at minimum wage six days a week at sixty years old. No pension, no benefits and later no chance to enjoy a limited source of social security. At age sixteen, I watched my grandfather die from a terminal illness.

    Unfortunately, he never got the chance to enjoy his golden years and I believe died an unhappy man. I reflected upon this and thought, What a shame, how sad that this had to be this way. While there are some things in life we can't control, like earthquakes, rain and income taxes, there are things we can control as we live our lives. Each day we can strive to fulfill our dreams, our goals and most importantly find inner harmony and peace within ourselves. I didn't realize it then, but my grandfather taught me a lesson that I would begin to understand as I grew older.

    Just seventeen years later, my thoughts would become much clearer on this subject. My mother, who had raised me and worked many years to support the two of us, would also die of a terminal illness just as she entered retirement. She died very unhappy, very poor, and with much debt.

    Here is a woman who worked all of her life to raise one child all by herself. She daily went to work through long commutes, bad weather and a lonely life as a single parent. Each day, she dragged herself out of bed at five in the morning to begin the long journey downtown.

    She put some savings away in a bank account that never grew very much throughout the years. She too passed away before she could enjoy her retirement. She was only 53 years old.

    I was with my mom when she passed away, just as I was with Grandpa. . She looked at me during her last few minutes of life, told me she loved me and I could see in her eyes, how unhappy she had been. She never got to do the things in life she dreamed for. She never got to spend the money; she both dreamed for and never had. She too, died very unhappy.

    That experience turned my life around. It made me wonder: How could this happen? In a society that is so full of opportunities to do whatever one wants, how could a person live their life for 53 years and die so unhappy, sad and lonely? Years after mom died, my grandma who I was also very close to died in her 90’s. She always used to ask me , ‘’Bagel (this is what she called me), are you happy? Does this make you happy? Do whatever you like as long you are happy. I think she understood me the most.

    When mom and grandpa died, I was too afraid and sad to attend their funerals. When grandma died however, somehow I found the strength and courage to attend. I brought my wife and at the time our two younger children with me. In our tradition, the casket was lowered into her grave and all of us took turns with the shovel throwing a pile of dirt on top. When it was my turn, I somehow found the strength to lift that shovel. I guess seeing my kids do this along with flowers I might add, gave me the strength. I’ll never forget the sound, ‘’thump’’ as the dirt hit the casket. On one hand it was closure. On the other hand, it was a new chapter to answer the question, ‘’Am I happy’’? This time however, I knew it wasn’t a question I only wanted to answer for myself but for others as well.

    So with my thoughts of grandpa, grandma and mom, I realized that there are many people leading lives like this. I decided that I both wanted and needed to help. It took many years later for this dream to realize itself but now as Your Vocational Coach, my hope is that my work will help you think more about your own possibilities to align your abilities and interests and in the process make your life and the world around you just a little more meaningful and fulfilling. Have a great and though provoking month.

    Regards Craig

    Review and buy now more of Craig’s writing and research at:
    The Vocational Coach (tm)
    ''Guiding you to discover and live your vocational passion''
    Workshops, Publications, Retreats and Private Coaching
    Phone 925-736-3952 Fax 925-736-5758

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