The Right Thing to Do
By: B. Tiger

I awoke to a gale force wind that was blowing fiercely through my open bedroom window. It is almost October here in New England and the scent of Fall is in the air with its crisp, fresh and very invigorating aroma creating a wonderful wake up call. This time of year is a favorite for my wife and I. This will also be the last autumn season for me living in Massachusetts.

My life had taken a new path creating yet another journey to undertake. My wife, Valerie, found herself in 2008 feeling stuck in a job that she was very overqualified for. Two years earlier the company she invested years of professional growth with imploded. Now joining the likes of Enron, Adelphia had succumbed to greed, deceit and eventual collapse.

She acquired a new position in a company that was over an hour away from where we lived. Though this new job paid far less, was much farther to travel and below her competencies, she was grateful to be employed. With Valerie returning home later in the evening now, I found myself taking on many of the roles we both shared before.

I too was busy with my own business, Serenity’s Journey and working in the mental health field but had more flexibility in my schedule to pick up any additional chores. Valerie and I have always been adaptable to any life changes. After all, 27 years in a partnership can offer quite a foundation to ride out any of life’s ground shaking. Though we are very different in personality; me enjoying the thrills of skydiving and her being comfortable with a night at home watching a movie together, we do share the same values and principles which I believe is the cornerstone of our marriage.

In the winter of 2009, Valerie began seeking new employment when it was clear she would not be able to advance in the company she was with at the time, Cox. Unable to utilize her full skill set and strengths, her best bet would be to use the internet website Monster and post her resume. During this time, a friend of mine who worked for another telecom giant, Comcast, was trying to get Valerie a referral to the company for a possible interview. This proved difficult as the New England arm of Comcast was downsizing.

After a month of searching, Valerie had an inquiry on her online resume. It was Comcast Spotlight out of the Philadelphia area, the very company she was trying to get into. An interview was scheduled a week later and I drove her down to West Chester, PA. The idea was to have four interviews with her in one day since we were traveling from Massachusetts. Valerie spent the full day interviewing while I toured the area taking in scenery of what I believed would be our next residence. I have strong spiritual beliefs including Zen and karma so this process of seeing what future lies ahead was only natural.

A few anxious weeks later, Valerie was contacted and offered the job. Here is where the difficult part comes in. Our son, Michael, was a sophomore in high school at the time. He had been living in Massachusetts since he was two years old and was in the same school system through his life. All of his peers, friendships and relationships had been developed and nurtured here in this tiny sea village near Cape Cod. Valerie and I had agreed earlier that no matter what the employment outcome was to be, our son would remain in the school system and town where he grew up.

Once Valerie and I decided that this was a career opportunity she could not pass up, we knew that we would have to live apart for the next two years. The idea is to keep Michael in school until graduation, and then we would all move to West Chester, PA. My business can be run from any location and mental health counselors are in pretty high demand, so this transition will not difficult for me. The challenge of course was going to be living 345 miles apart for this length of time. Valerie and I have been together for over 27 years and this was going to be a major paradigm shift for all of us.

I had spoken to many friends and colleagues about this situation and was given different views. Some thought our plan made sense but seemed fraught with many challenges. Others thought that we should just move together and let Michael go to a new school starting in his junior year. The later of those views was not an option for us. Having the experience of being shuffled from school to school through my childhood, never able to develop real bonding through stability, comfort and security, I knew how devastating this would be for Michael. So the right thing to do was to live two separate lives for the next two years and then reunite when Michael graduates.

The right thing to do was something that Valerie I knew innately. In one of my education groups that I facilitate when I am in the role of counselor, I discuss the idea that people have choices all the time. My example is this:

‘You find yourself walking down the sidewalk one day and you come across a discarded piece of paper on your path…
As you approach the paper you think to yourself, ”Hmm, someone threw some litter on the ground”…
You have an appointment and are running late…
As you come up to the paper on the ground you think “I know I should throw that out….but I am running late and I don’t have the time to stop”

Now in your mind you know “The Right Thing” to do….but you just don’t have the time.
Besides…someone else can pick it up, it really isn’t my responsibility anyway since I did not leave it there.
You know that it would only take a second to pick up that piece of paper…But it is much more “Comfortable” to just walk past it.
It takes a moment of effort out of your life to do the “Right Thing”….but again comfortable is sometimes easier.

The fact of the matter is that for you to pick up the paper on the ground, it would have only taken one extra second…imagine if every person in the world did this!
It is that one extra second that can define the character of a person.’

Michael is now in his senior year. We have endured this time apart overcoming many obstacles and challenges with more to come I am sure. We just recently lost a family member of almost 15 years, our black Labrador, George. Though Valerie was not here for his end, she was able to spend some quality time as she traveled back to Massachusetts through the summer and on our recent vacation together here in this small sea village we call home.

For us, the right thing to do was far from comfortable. Of course it was easier if we all moved to Pennsylvania together, just like walking over that piece of paper. But in spite of the challenges we face living apart, our son has grown into a fine young man. Never having the stress of starting his young life all over in a strange setting, he is able to stay focused on his goals. He is surrounded with good friends, teachers and mentors. This is the dividend from the investment we are making for him; for us all.

It is almost October, just a few months left before Michael ends one journey and begins a new one in college. As for Valerie and I, we will be together soon. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for this life we share and the many gifts it has brought us.

One day I hope to look back on this experience and realize that this was not something that we had to do; this was something that we got to do!