Two thousand fourteen. Easily, the most eventful year in my life. As the final days of the calendar year burn away it’s a great time to reflect on the past 12 months.
That this was going to be a wild ride in 2014 was pretty much locked in when I found out in December 2013 that my ex-girlfriend was pregnant with my first child. At 44 years of age, I had thrown in the towel on having children and was enjoying my single life in Las Vegas. God had a different plan.
Having a child together wasn’t enough to bring my child’s mother and I back together in a relationship, no matter now much we tried. There was too much mistrust, animosity, anger and anxiety. In retrospect, we both should have tried a little hard and forgiven a little faster, but it didn’t happen.
By Spring we were trying to find ways to agree on a name, co-parenting and everything else through weekly doctor visits.
Meanwhile my plan to work part-time while pursuing some independent ventures got moved to the back burner (cause for some of the aforementioned feelings). Suddenly, I needed insurance and a full-time income to support this new little guy.
My best option was a full-time job as a poker supervisor at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. Unfortunately the only available full-time job was on the graveyard shift. With some trepidation, I accepted the position. Suddenly, I was working 1AM-9AM five nights a week learning the poker trade in the center of the poker universe — The Las Vegas Strip.
I agreed to these graveyard hours because I wanted to provide for my son. I told myself I would only work on graveyard for 24 months before I had to find a new shift or a new job.
On July 16 — five days early — Jace Allen Harberts arrived on the scene. Born with a correctable health problem, Jace spent 49 days in the NICU recovering. The strain of a fractured relationship and a birth of a new child was only intensified by the twice-daily 35-mile round trip to the hospital while also working a full-time schedule.
Jace made it through everything like a champ. I was grateful to all the amazing NICU nurses at Spring Valley Hospital who taught me how to properly care for this fragile little life. And that full-time graveyard job I reluctantly took? MGM’s great insurance paid off in spades when my son was racking up $2,500 a day hospital bills.
After Jace left the hospital we had to try to figure out how to care for this little guy. It didn’t matter how much I had prepared, all the stuff I had read or all the advice I received, a single 45-year old man cannot possibly prepare for the task of taking care of an infant child by himself 70-90 hours per week. It is a daunting task. The crying, the screaming, the not being able to fix the situation no matter what you do. The only solution I ever found was a Jeep ride. A few minutes rumbling around the neighborhood had a calming and sometimes sleepy effect on my young son.
The year has ended on a flourish. My son is showing no signs of the being long-term affected by his NICU stay. He’s growing up to be a healthy, happy, good-looking boy.
Thanksgiving week I was offered the opportunity to leave the graveyard shift for a split shift during regular hours. Now I work two days and three swing shifts. I never work later than 1AM. Being back on a normal schedule has led to me being less tired, and by extension a better parent.
Twenty fourteen was a great year, but there are still dreams unfulfilled and goals undone. I am planning on working hard in 2015 to see some of these dreams and goal come to fruition. Still, it will be difficult to top the events of 2014.
The headline is a little misleading because I am vowing to contribute to my blog/website more often in 2012. But I don’t consider that a New Year’s resolution as much as I consider simply paying more attention to the people, places and things that are important to me.
I am coming up on my two-year anniversary in Las Vegas — January 7, 2010, was the day I packed a 24-foot truck and departed cold and snowy Kansas City for sunny and warm Las Vegas.
In just two short years my life has changed immeasurably. Some of the people that came into my life when I first arrived in Sin City are only casual acquaintances now. Others are not even a speck in my rearview mirror.
In the meantime I have met a number of good friends, purchased a house, been promoted a few times and am looking hopefully toward 2012.
A few things I have learned along the way…
…Don’t give up on your dreams. No matter how frustrated you feel about not achieving all that you want don’t give up. Don’t let others dissuade you. If you are surrounding yourself with people who think your dreams are dumb or not attainable, you need to rid yourself of those people.
…Begin anywhere. This comes via my friend Lori in Kansas City. It’s so easy to get caught up in things that have happened to you in the past. Those bad experiences can eat at you and make you doubt yourself. Leave the past in the past and move forward. Learn your lesson and keep your foot on the accelerator.
…It’s better to burn out than fade away. I know it’s cliche…and a cheesy song lyric, but I believe it. If you are going to fail, fail spectacularly. Go out with a bang! Right before I moved to Las Vegas I lost $50,000 on a business endeavor in just six months. Trying to start a small business as the economy was failing and aligning myself with people that didn’t share the same amount of passion or investment that I had was a terrible idea. I failed spectacularly! But I would rather have tried and failed than live my whole life with the regret of never trying.
…Pack lightly. When I moved to Las Vegas I packed all my essentials in a 24-foot truck and drove across the plains of Kansas, the Rocky Mountains and south central Utah to my new apartment in Las Vegas. Then I had to fly home, get my car and my beloved dog, Pirate, and drive out again. After I finally bought a house 20 months later, I had to have another truck bring out my non-essentials from a storage unit in Kansas City.
I have learned an agonizing lesson in for being one guy with one dog (no spouse, no kids), I have way too much crap that I am hauling around: outsized and outdated clothes, old board games I will never play again, dozens of books, knick knacks, DVDs, electrical cords, artwork, sports equipment, etc. Get this excess stuff out of your life. No hoarding! Stop hanging on those two racquetball racquets because you used to play 10 years ago! When was the last time you actually hung up that piece of art you bought from somebody else’s garage sale? Are you really going to use your old dishes again someday?
Have a garage sale and dump this crap on somebody else (and put a few bucks in your own pocket). Give to Goodwill or a homeless shelter. Advertise it on craigslist. Or just put it out at the curb with a big sign that says FREE! I have been in my house since May and I am still working on getting excess stuff out of my life…especially baseball cards and electric football teams!