As I write this, my close friend Nate and I making a transition to the next chapter in our lives. We are launching our guide service – Brookdog Fishing Company. Forms filed with the state of NY, tax identification number on hand, mailing address established, website built, etc. – ready to put clients on fish. This has been a goal for about a decade now but there was always something preventing us from getting things going. Finally making this dream a reality took a collision of circumstances and the courage to embrace the fear and excitement of moving into the unknown. Always looking for natural parallels to what we humans believe are monumental accomplishments, I could not help but picture schools of steelhead or smallmouth bass, living fat and comfortable in the depths of the great lakes, nudged by the transition of the seasons into their spawning run. Primal, instinctual, and I am sure a bit anxious, they do this with apparent ease – why can’t we?
The months leading up to my departure from active duty in the Marine Corps were stressful. So many decisions to make – do we rent or buy a home, what school should our daughter attend, where to bank, where do we get health and life insurance, etc. A non-military reader may think of those decisions as commonplace but to service members who have been in the military for a while, preparing for life after the military is the first time thinking about this stuff. Since graduating high school, we move frequently, deploy often, and spend huge chunks of time away from home on training exercises. We never really settle down and grow roots…somehow, we get used to this.
As the day grew closer for me to take the step into civilian life, I realized that my circumstances were not that different from the rest of the adult population. I read a lot of books and articles about making life changes and learned that the average American changes jobs every 3-4 years and makes about 2-3 career changes in their working life. Huge portions of the population clock in and out of work, getting used to the grind, mortgaging their free time to spend it doing what they would rather do. I also learned that it is often a crisis (getting fired or laid off, family circumstances, injuries, etc.) that cause these changes instead of a conscious decision to follow a dream or passion. This reminded me of a scene in, “Up in the Air,” when George Clooney asks J.K. Simmons how much his company paid him to give up on his dreams. It also reminded me of the numerous times I told fly fishing guides around the continent that they had the best job in the world. How can I say something like this yet keep following the same path? Why is it so hard to just go for it?
The answers to these questions are as diverse as the people who ask them. In trying to craft my response, I have become very aware that MANY others dared greatly before me – starting their own guiding and outfitting services, fly shops, equipment lines, etc. I have had the privilege of meeting some of these pioneers and they provided a source of inspiration, a nudge in the right direction, and much needed mentorship to establish a professional business. Put in the context of what is now a huge industry, there is nothing truly monumental about the establishment of Brookdog Fishing Company – we are a single fish in a huge school – so it should not have been so emotionally taxing to make this career move. Like fresh chrome to their imprinted river, a transition from working to live to pursuing a passion shouldn’t cause anxiety, it should flow naturally, instinctually, one only needs to allow it to happen. Win or lose, it will build character and leave you with a great story to tell. There is probably a natural law to all of this – pursue your passion passionately, and the rest will fall in place.
It’s never easy making a life changing transition. I’ve been in the middle of doing so for a few years. The toughest part is balancing my desire to follow my dreams and the need to support my family. The only thing holding me back now: the fear of failure and how that failure will affect those close to me. I realize it’s not a healthy mindset to have but fear is part of human nature and it’s that fear that causes me to pull back the reigns on occasion. As you said it is very emotionally taxing. I wish you the best of luck.
Thanks for your comments Dan. I have struggled with the balance for over 15 years now. Keep your eye on your emotional health. I wish you the best of luck.