This is the 43rd story of Our Life Logs.
If I was only allowed to describe myself with one word, I’d choose adaptive. My childhood was spaced out across the United States and Europe. My father was in the military, so we had to move wherever he was stationed. Between kindergarten and the end of high school, I had gone to 16 different schools. From all the moving, I developed an ability to accommodate change. Being exposed to many different cultures and people helped me learn to feel comfortable in any situation—anywhere from a board meeting, to a biker bar, or in the middle of a bizarre in some foreign city. No matter where or what situation I’m in, I’ll adapt.
During the early 1970s and 1980s, I had to be the new kid in school many times. Even so, I saw each move as a chance to make new friends and learn to settle into a new environment. I always found at least one person with a military childhood experience like mine of moving around frequently. I was drawn to these people and usually remained in contact with them after I moved. They were in the same situations as me, so we bonded with ease despite knowing we’d eventually move on from each other. Looking back, this really impacted me later in life. While it was easy to make friends; it was very hard for me to fully commit to relationships and friendships, so that now when I find deep connections with others, I defend those relationships fiercely.
Finally, we did settle in one place for the last three years of high school in our original hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. I’d been in and out of different school systems for many years between my father’s military assignments. Having three uninterrupted years in one location helped me make better friends from the area, and most of those people were people I played sports with, or maybe just a few people I’d known from early childhood. Even so, developing a close relationship was still hard. Many of these kids had been with the same group of people for all their lives and had already grown very close to each other, while I was always coming and going at odd times. I sometimes didn’t know where to begin with building stronger relationships and friendships. Occasionally I would feel like an outsider, and rather than feel close connections, I focused instead on just fitting in.
While I was choosing colleges, I chose to go to Washington. When I was about 11, my father was stationed there, and I fell in love with it. The mountains, the ocean, and all the beautiful green landscapes took my breath away. Fortunately, my athletic skills helped me get a football scholarship to the University of Washington. I accepted the offer without hesitation and began to work toward a degree in psychology. I thought I had my life all plotted out. I soon learned that it wouldn’t be that simple.
Playing football in college was my reality check. What I had dreamed of doing was not going to be as easy as I had expected. Everyone on my team in college was a great player back in their high school. I wasn’t as extraordinary as I thought. Learning this, I had to adapt and work harder to improve my game to keep up with all my talented teammates. This taught me a lot about humility and about changing my mindset, and again adapting. I also had several injuries that I had to overcome that kept me off the field for stretches of time as well.
After finishing my degree, I was offered the opportunity to play football in Canada. I decided that wasn’t the path I wanted to take and stayed in Washington to go to graduate school instead. I considered medical school at first, but in the end, I decided to get a master’s degree in Forensic Entomology. I’d always been interested in science and particularly in insects. I was always the kid collecting bugs while growing up. Besides I wanted to break from the path of psychology. This was different from my original plan, but I was all about new experiences. I grew up having to be used to change, and so I think I was always looking to do it all. By now I was well on my way to becoming a polymath.
After finishing my graduate degree, I soon realized that I didn’t want to work in pest control, in agriculture, or as a college professor; so, my career options with my degree were limited. Initially, I worked as a Chief Entomologist, for a pest control company. One day on the job, I met a man who owned his own recruiting company. The man was very enthusiastic and amicable, and urged me to join his team. He assured me how much I’d like recruiting because it was a rewarding experience where you got to help people with their career choices. I decided to take his offer. After all, helping people was my intention when I chose to major in psychology. So, I took a chance. It was completely different than anything I’d done up to that point, and changing careers was somewhat unnerving.
I did recruiting for a few years, and I had gotten married and we had a son. But eventually the marriage ended, and I was often separated from my young son. The change was difficult. I’d often only see him on the weekends and holidays. I wanted more time together. Consequently, my career started involving more HR generalist functions, and eventually I became a Regional VP of Human Resources for an international company. I had to travel frequently in this new role which made my time with my son even more valuable and scarce.
It was at an employment law conference in Washington D.C. that I met my current wife. Though it’s not common to meet your soulmate when you’re about to turn 40, it happened to me. She was the keynote speaker at the conference, and a lobbyist who once worked for various members of Congress on Capitol Hill. She was so intelligent, confident, and beautiful that I felt drawn to her immediately.
We got to know each other during the welcome reception at the conference and instantly clicked. During our conversation she asked me out to dinner the next evening, and I happily accepted. The next night, at her favorite restaurant, we wound up talking for over six hours. Within two weeks, I asked her to marry me, and she said yes! The very next day we purchased a house. Being this impulsive was out of character for me, but I embraced this change, and started a new life in the DC area with my new fiancé. I believe falling in love with my wife reflects the saying, “when you know, you know.” I knew she was the one, and we wanted to begin our lives together as soon as possible since we’d met each other so late in life.
I left my job and adapted to a new life in Washington DC. I started a new job as the VP of Human Resources at a major hospital. My wife and I stayed in DC for several years before we made the decision to move back to Ohio to be closer to my son.
I’m glad we made that decision. My wife started doing consulting work for political campaigns around the country, while I continued to work in human resources near our home. With us moving closer, I got to be with my son more during the critical years of his life when a boy is searching for direction on how to become a man. I’ve been blessed and fortunate to have shared a lot of love and developed a strong relationship with my son. Many fathers don’t get that opportunity.
Like everyone else, I too have some minor regrets about certain decisions I’ve made in my life. I’ve also had my fair share of pain and loss as well. But I don’t dwell on those. My childhood prepared me to accept the revolving door of life and its opportunities. Because change is second nature to me, I can prioritize, and problem solve with efficiency. Everyone’s paths are different, and that’s a good thing. For me, life is all about the journey and the change it brings. It’s how we learn and grow.
-This is the story of Patrick-
Patrick resides in Loveland, Ohio with his lovely wife. Growing up with a father in the military, Patrick was enrolled in 16 different schools between K-12th grade and had to grow accustomed to the frequent moves in the US and Europe. Despite having to start over many times, Patrick always found a way to adapt and fit into each new situation. Patrick has been a drummer, song writer, poet, football player, world traveler, became a naturalist, sang in a metal band, an avid fencer, writer of fiction, entrepreneur, and business owner. Patrick currently works in human resources for a supply chain technology company.
This story first touched our hearts on November 9, 2017.
| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker; Manqing Jin |