I spent more days on the road the past two years than at home.

The previous two years I’d say the time was about equal.

darrell whitelaw
May 27, 2015 · 6 min read

The three years before that saw me ramp up from a relatively stationary life to the lifestyle I grew too accustomed to.

(If you know me, you know these photos too well.)

There’s no blame, I did it willingly because I was building something I believed in, something that employed friends, that put amazing work into the world, that satisfied my daily craving for new and exciting challenges and pushed my abilities. Abilities I felt I spent my life building for “exactly this moment”. I loved success (loosely defined haters), even when it was a constant struggle to keep the forward momentum going.

Six years later I’ve learned a lot, something a 28 year old me never would have known was coming and a 34 year old me has come to terms with the past three months.

I can have it all . . .

Nobody gets the luxury of having it all, something is always sacrificed at another’s alter and my drive to build a business put me out of touch with my family, my friends, my home and made me a stranger who felt consistently uncomfortable everywhere I was. The strangest part about being lost was that I never even felt it.

So back to that “exactly this moment” comment. I pushed forward every quarter thinking that the end was in sight, that at some point I would be able to stop and breathe, be home and be present for my real life.

That moment isn’t real, there’s never an end to building, it consumes you and you keep saying “next quarter, next year, okay maybe two more years” and ultimately you just keep building. It’s not an architected plan with a stopping point. The first million, the first five million, onward. What you build becomes all consuming and you have more to support and more territory to cover.

Responsibility over control.

The eye opener came after being gone five days a week for three months straight, I was obsessed with a project and put myself at the center of it on top of all my other responsibilities to my company, my family, my home.

I broke.

I came home and tried to put myself into a stabilized routine and it was foreign. I realized how detached I was from my wife, my children and my friends. I saw I had gone from being a casual (read: drunk and stress) smoker to being a full on habit driven one, I was drinking more than any self respecting washed up straight edge kid could be proud of, I had changed. Fundamentally.

I also saw a world that moved on without me, a home that had grown so accustomed to me being gone that it had taken a new form, one wholly devoid of my presence. There was still so much love in it, but I was a temporary figure who was around weekends and for vacations. I wasn’t a part of my own home, my own family, I was a visitor.

There was no a-ha moment, no clouds parting and clarity coming to me. Just realization, and maybe that’s what bothered me so much. I was able to look into my own life and see how much I was missing and that my drive to build was dismantling the thing that’s made me happier than anything else, even worse I was doing it with the perception that I was doing it “for us”. My home didn’t need me gone to build a financial upside; it needed me present to build the emotional upside, why I was married at 24, why we started a family at 25, why I centered myself around that at a young age was because I knew early on that it was the greatest legacy I could create.

I didn’t need to be all things to all people, I needed to be something to a few people.

Change your life, it’s hard but worthy.

Admitting what you’ve done wrong and trying to make it right is what helps us grow as people. I’ve spent two months completely changing my life, I’ve stopped controlling much of what happens in my company, relying on the amazing people I have surrounding me to do why they do best. I make my trips short (I’m typing this from a red eye to NYC where I’m flying for 22 hours to do what I need to do personally) and try to keep them spread out to every other week. I stopped drinking more than the occasional drink with friends, I’m in the process of stopping smoking again (I forgot how awful it is to be hooked on something) and keeping my office hours reasonable.

These things are allowing me to get back to having a life. I started going to the gym at home again (not just at hotels like I used to), running every morning like I love. I’ve started surfing with my wife (she’s much better than me and I hope that never changes), my kids have started going to the skatepark in our town and are finally enjoying something that means so much to me so the excitement of being there to teach them how to do a kickflip is almost too much for me to deal with.

We’re traveling together, spending the summer living in London and Berlin so I can work but still be present. I’m making time for friends, going out for dinners and trying to be more social and get out with the people I love.

All these things are just starting points in what it means for me to find balance in my life, have more connection to my family and be there for them as well as myself, not just a false vision of what it means to be me.

You may not be able to have it all as I’ve learned, but you sure as hell can have a little bit of everything and not just be content with it, but surround yourself with love as you learn to be the best person you can be.

To finding balance as we all move forward. xo

    darrell whitelaw

    Written by

    father of two boys, married to @sarahwhitelaw, designer @oursiberia.

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