I Choose to Live

Nearly six months into 2017, I’m looking back and realizing that this has been one of the most challenging, exciting, and scary years of my life so far. I’ve never really talked about most of it. At least not publicly. But as I sit in Detroit, only a handful of months removed from nearly moving to Dallas, I came to the realization that “talking” (err… writing) about it might be cathartic.

I suppose I should tell the story of 2017 from the beginning. In early January, I decided it was time for a change. I’ve always been enamored of the startup world and, no offense to Toledo, but felt like it was limiting my ability to stretch my legs. So, I set my sights on one of the most vibrant startup scenes in the country right now: Dallas, TX. I spent a little under a week there in both January and February. I’d chosen where I was going to live, knew approximately when I was going to move, and had a handful of job opportunities to choose from. The family wasn’t going to move with me. My goal was to fly back a couple times a month until… I don’t know what. The plan was deeply flawed.

In the midst of my Dallas planning, my best friend and I reached the conclusion that after 20 years together, marriage was probably standing in the way of our friendship. Within two days of our first discussion on the subject, we had all of the details hashed out; financial, physical possessions, and most importantly, shared parenting. It was a tough pill to swallow, but one that we both knew was necessary for our long-term happiness.

In some ways, our dissolution (no divorce necessary) made my decision to move to Dallas easier. In other ways, it made it much, much harder. I was about to move to the other side of the country as my son was left to deal with this new reality. What I came to realize was that I was running away. I was probably just too scared to start over and rebuild in the city where I spent my entire marriage. My entire life, really. It took one sentence for me to cancel my move to Dallas: “I don’t want you to go, dad.” That was it. Right then and there, I decided that I wasn’g going anywhere.

And then panic set in. Where was I going to work? Where was I going to live? As I mentioned in my Love Letter to Toledo, that all came together rather quickly for me. But the fear of continuing to live in a town filled with memories, emotional triggers, and having to constantly explain why my marriage ended haunted me. Wait. Before I continue, I should mention that Katy and I are on as good of terms as possible right now. I love her and I always will. But after 20 years, there’s not too many places I can go in Toledo without seeing a reminder of our time together. There’s not too many people that I can talk to who wouldn’t ask me how “we” are doing. It was revisiting the thought of spending the rest of my life without her that scared me. Not the pain of our dissolution, which went incredibly smoothly.

I’m going to skip a lot of the story now and fast forward to present day. Maybe I’ll go back and fill in the gaps some other time, but as I mentioned before, this is supposed to be cathartic. If this winds up being an interesting read, so be it. But make no mistake, I’m writing this for me.

My current view from Bamboo Detroit.

It’s June 9th and I’m sitting at my desk at Bamboo Detroit, a place that wasn’t even on my radar at the beginning of 2017. And now it’s my second home. Somehow in my desire to flee Toledo for greener grass, I’d overlooked some pretty amazing things happening less than an hour north. I could go on for hours about my experience as a member of the core planning team for Detroit Startup Week ’17, how I’m reprising my role in 2018, and the incredible people that I’ve gotten to know here. But that would only be half of the story. The bigger takeaway from my experience has been how I can bring some of what I’ve learned back to Toledo. And vice versa.

Two days after DSW ’17 ended, I started brainstorming a way to keep the energy flowing between my hometown and my adopted second home. My first thought was to hold a panel discussion in Toledo with some of the very bright minds that I’d met in Detroit. I assumed that the whole thing would take several weeks to organize. In reality, it took approximately two days.

I tentatively titled the discussion “DET x TOL.” But once I realized how interested both communities were in collaborating, I decided to devote that name to an ongoing series of talks, alternating host venues between Toledo and Detroit. It looks as though our first event will be taking place in Toledo in August. And there are enough interested speakers, panelists, etc. to keep the ball rolling for another three months thereafter. I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Jordan Valdiviez from Launchpad Incubation and my mentor, friend, and employer, Chris Anderson for their feedback and help in putting it all together.

So, that’s my disconnected, cathartic, probably confusing tale of 2017 to-date. I’m still facing challenges. I’m still very excited about what comes next. And I’ll forever force myself to do things that are a little scary. I don’t have it all figured out and I probably never will. But I’m alive. I am… alive.

And I choose to live.