When Caesar came into our lives we lived in a small townhouse with a linoleum kitchen and dining room floor. That floor was perfect for a puppy going through potty training, but when I think about it, I think about it as cold and lonely. Just ask Mom.
Mom spent most of her time on that floor with Caesar until he was potty trained. Just her and Caesar.
Right about the time we brought Caesar home, I got my first senior leadership role in marketing. It was an amazing opportunity for a guy in his mid-twenties. As a point of reference all my peers were in their forties and fifties and all had been with the company for more than ten years. I was in my third year with the company.
I couldn’t have imagined falling into that opportunity, having the responsibility that I had or taking home that kind of paycheck in my wildest work dreams.
Interestingly enough though, work dreams were all that I had when I did sleep. I lived and dreamed work. Most days I left for the office before Mom was up, got to let Caesar out to go potty, got ready for work and left. I would get home late on the weeks I wasn’t traveling for work.
If it was too late and I was in the office, I would just stay at the office until the middle of the night. Since the office was an hour drive from home I would get a room at the only hotel in town. I would take a shower, work a bit more, sleep for two or three hours, take a shower and go back to the office.
When your Mom and I did get time together, it was nice to catch up. She would tell me how she was doing and about all the things Caesar was learning. However, I only really remember vividly is her telling me about spending time alone with Caesar on the kitchen floor. Not exactly the type of conversation one usually would expect to remember with their new spouse.
We got through winter that year, but as spring was upon and new life was filling the landscapes of Minnesota, I was feeling like the life I was planning on building with your Mom was dying and slipping away.
I really had grown to hate my job, even though I liked the people I worked with. They were tons of fun and we had some great nights on the road. I even sang karaoke for the first time; Aqua’s, “I’m a Barbie Girl.” The job though was eating me up, I was tired and I finally decided what was important.
Your Mom taught me a great lesson when we were dating. The first time I told her I loved her, her response was, “I love me too.” Eventually, several months later she would say “I love you to me,” but she explained to me when I asked her why she wouldn’t say it to me she said,”because I need to make sure I love me when I’m with you before I can love you.”
At the time I thought it was pretty selfish, but I finally understood it when I looked at myself as a senior leader in my mid-twenties.
I had come to the point where I didn’t love me anymore. As a result I couldn’t love Mom or Caesar. It wasn’t what I wanted for myself so I knew it was time to move on.
I took the first job offer I got, without knowing exactly what I was going to do or even how much they were going to pay me. In part it went down that way because I was young and stupid, but the bigger part was that I knew it was an opportunity to get things right.
My decision was validated when on my first day on the job, I finished the work they asked me to do at 5:00. I went in to ask what was next and was told. “Go home dude, it’s quitting time. Take every chance you get to go home early, because when you die you’re never going to wish you worked more”
I went home and when I got there Mom and Caesar were playing on the kitchen floor. I joined them and was on my way back to loving who I was again.
So at the end of the day Caesar taught me what was important. That vivid memory of him and Mom on the floor continues to serve as a reminder. You have to love yourself first and that is the most important thing.
Is it selfish? Not one bit.
Who you are is your family, your friends and the experiences you have with them. It’s not just you as an individual. At the time, I was Mom, Caesar and me first. Followed closely by the rest of my family and friends.
I still value work, I take it personally and I love my work team. And while some of them already have and some of them may at some point even make it into that circle that includes friends and family at the end of the day they are not what you are.
You are and always will be part of me. Part of me like your Mom, Caesar and Cheddar always will be.
I hope for you that you will always love yourself first. Your Mom gave me that lesson before I was ever ready to understand it, but Caesar was responsible in a very real way for teaching me the true meaning of that lesson.